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Urban Confluence Silicon Valley
Urban Confluence Silicon Valley unveils finalists, with winner to be chosen in 2021

The quest to create a new landmark structure in downtown San Jose reached a major milestone Friday night when three designs were revealed as the finalists during a virtual event that included some surprises of its own.

But perhaps the biggest surprise is how much each of the finalists capture the innovative, imaginative and fun spirit of this place where we live.

“They’re really different in their vision, their inspiration,” said Jon Ball, a retired executive with construction firm Hensel Phelps who is chairman of the Urban Confluence Silicon Valley board and served on the 14-person jury. “All three have a certain elegance and poetry.”

Here are the final three, as chosen from 963 submissions by a jury of artists, architects, civic leaders and environmentalists. (Watch videos about each finalist below and get more information at www.urbanconfluencesiliconvalley.org).

• “Nebula Tower,” designed by Quinrong Liu and Ruize Li, a 180-foot high framework cube that includes a negative space representing the San Jose Light Tower, a symbol that has been the city’s phantom icon for more than a century. The tower can be illuminated at night in a variety of patterns.

• “Breeze of Innovation,” by Fer Jerez and Belen Perez de Juan of SMAR Architecture Studio, uses 500 lithe, white rods that move gently in the wind and represent Silicon Valley’s innovative companies. It, too, includes a reference to the Light Tower — a conical void within the rods in the same dimensions as the original structure.

• “Welcome to Wonderland,” created by Rish Saito, is something else entirely. A riff on “Alice in Wonderland” with ribbon of artificial flora finished in white plaster that “grows” out of a 700-foot long container. At night, projection mapping turns the structure into a vibrant, colorful display that people can walk through. The point, Saito says, is to honor the imagination that drives Silicon Valley.

Urban Confluence Silicon Valley grew out of a desire to replicate the iconography of the San Jose Light Tower, a 207-foot-high structure made of iron pipe and hoops that was erected on Santa Clara Street in 1881 and stood until 1915 when the weakening tower collapsed on itself following a storm. But realizing there was little appetite for a replica — a half-size version already exists at History Park on Senter Road — the worldwide ideas competition was opened up to any design that would represent the spirit of San Jose and Silicon Valley.

“Even though we were originally inspired by the Light Tower, we were in no way prescriptive about that,” Ball said. “As it turns out, the non local jurors were the ones very much fascinated by the idea of an homage to the old tower. For me, that was a big surprise.”

The jury, which included people as far away as the East Coast and Europe, met virtually for two days in early August. A rigorous discussion took place once the submissions were narrowed down to about a dozen, and jurors began jockeying for their favorites. Interestingly, none of the finalists was among the 47 submissions recommended by a larger Community Competition Panel that met in July.

Friday night’s online reveal party was intended not only to unveil the finalists, but to also get the community — and potential donors — excited about the project. While the cost of final selection won’t be known for months, Urban Confluence Silicon Valley knows it will have a fundraising challenge ahead of it.

During the online event, Phil Boyce of the Valley Foundation pledged a $100,000 matching grant to the project, and Adobe Systems — the largest tech company with a downtown San Jose headquarters — served as the virtual event’s presenting sponsor and has promised $150,000. Steve Borkenhagen, executive director of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley, said the group has received key backing from the San Jose City Council, as well as other community groups.

“Our relationship with the city couldn’t be better,” Borkenhagen said. “One reason we’ve gotten to this point is that our board — Jon Ball, Christine Davis and myself — have been constantly communicating with our stakeholders, including the Sharks, Little Italy, the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and the city’s park’s department. Outreach has been the key to our success.”

Each designe
When the Covid-19 pandemic finally fades one major lifestyle change it created probably won’t—the ability to give up the daily commute in favor of working from home. International architectural, development and planning firm Gensler is focused on that sea change in how we go about our business and is working with communities and automakers on the concept it calls the “20-minute city.”

During an extensive conversation, two Gensler executives explained the concept as really a combination of de-centralizing business districts where people conduct business and making more mobility choices available, especially to those who live in economically-challenged communities. What’s not a key mobility element, is the private automobile.

“We think about it in terms of access shed by how far they can walk. Somebody who chooses not to own, or can’t afford or isn’t able to drive an automobile, their access shed is limited to how far they can walk in a given amount of time,” said Dylan Jones, a senior associate and leader of Gensler’s mobility lab. ”If that person has access to a bicycle, that access shed goes from how far you can walk in 20 minutes, which might be, at best, a half a mile, it expands to three miles. The sheer area you can access, the opportunities you can access, the number of jobs you can access, it expands incredibly.”

The imperative to work remotely may have been sparked by the need to contain Covid-19 through social distancing, but it also created a distrust of public transportation and ride sharing for fear of infection.

Jones points to research revealing sales of electric-powered bicycles jumped 190% in June compared with the same month a year ago.

But not everyone has the option of eschewing public transportation to get to their jobs or school said Andre Brumfield, principal and global leader for cities and urban design at Gensler. He points out a large number of front line workers are people of color who have not only been hit hard by Covid-19 but have limited resources shutting them out of choices beyond public transportation. Worse, he says, their neighborhoods have been largely ignored by companies offering affordable options.

“Over the last several years, we have been witnessing that shared bike programs and shared scooters were only happening in trendy areas or neighborhoods,” said Brumfield. “There are neighborhoods with people of color saying, are we going to have an opportunity to participate in this? There will be some people in those same communities who will say, when you see shared bikes stacked or scooters, that it’s basically the mobility equal of Starbucks showing up in your neighborhoods.”

The conundrum of how to achieve this sort of mobility equity while still remaining relevant is an issue Gensler is addressing with what Dylan Jones terms some “big international automakers.”

"They’re asking themselves existentially, where do their brand positions fall?” said Jones. “Whereas at one point it had to do with identity and what was on your driveway, identity now may be communicated through what’s on your Instagram feed."

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit those who had access to micromobility options such as scooters and e-bikes were using them in favor of driving. Jones cites Gensler research that reveals from 2018 to 2019, micromobility trips increased from 86 million to 134 million trips with 46% of those trips replacing those in autos.

At the same time, public transportation faces the challenge of losing passengers who are unhappy about cleanliness and safety. That’s another head scratcher for Gensler as it works with transit companies to overcome their shortfalls.

“This is a real issue for us in our communities. How do we do you provide a safe, equitable and intuitive mobility construct that people can opt into?” said Jones. “So, we’re really helping them focus on not just the technical aspect…but what are simple user experience levers we can play with to help support enjoyable trips?”

“We have to think about how all of these modes of transportation fit into our public realm and experience, and whether they are pedestrian friendly and encourage ridership,” added Brumfield.

Toss into the mix the move to electrification and both autos and public transportation become less vital to the 20-minute city where destin
Christian Columbres
Argyle Gardens, the nation’s first affordable housing project to open during the pandemic, was designed by Holst Architecture to also be replicable.

When the pandemic and quarantine set in earlier this year, some of the hardest hit populations were low-income and homeless persons, especially seniors. That made the opening of Argyle Gardens in Portland’s Kenton neighborhood particularly well timed.

“As far as I know we were the first affordable housing project to open during Covid,” says Tony Bernal, a senior director at Transition Projects, a local organization that commissioned the project. “We were desperately hoping we would not get shut down as we neared completion.”

Opened in April of this year, the colorful Argyle Gardens project was designed by Portland firm Holst Architecture to help fill the gap between homeless shelters and traditional apartments. After receiving a grant from the nonprofit Meyer Memorial Trust, the architects and client sought to develop a flexible design that reimagines traditional single-room-occupancy affordable housing, which has slowly disappeared across America.

“Typically SROs are large, hotel-like structures that could have 200 or more units,” Bernal adds. We wanted to see if we could do something a little more community oriented.”

The four-building complex is anchored by a 35-unit studio apartment building, with a large community room with laundry facilities and support staff offices serves as a central hub. But it’s a trio of adjacent smaller buildings devoted to cohousing that represent the first in a prototype dubbed Low Income Single Adult Housing, or LISAH, that the team hopes others can build elsewhere. Each features two six-bedroom units with two shared bathrooms and a large kitchen.

“You can build it with residential code and put it on virtually any residential lot in the city, or for that matter the state,” explains Holst partner Dave Otte of the design. “Everybody has a bedroom with a locking door, but they’re sharing a kitchen and they’re sharing their lives with one another.”

Situated on a sloping, formerly industrial city-owned site, Argyle Gardens, due to its use of prefabricated parts, saved an estimated 31 percent on construction costs compared to a typical affordable housing project. The project consists of four buildings each accommodating 24 residents, with a large central courtyard.

The prefab approach, in collaboration with Portland modular builder Mods, is all about keeping costs down, while the buildings’ scale makes them more neighborhood friendly. “We wanted to see if we could figure out a rent that if you only had social security and no federal housing voucher, you could actually make,” Bernal explains. Some units go for as little as $300 per month.

Viewed from outside, the buildings are distinctive for their multi-hued, translucent facades that reveal the staircases inside. “We came up with the idea to use the stairway as the celebration moment,” recalls Otte. The stairways are protected from the elements but not insulated and are clad with a polycarbonate material commonly used in greenhouses. “It becomes this lantern element,” the architect adds, “this beacon that gives the building a sense of personality and an iconic nature.”

Part of what makes Argyle Gardens attractive is the 70,000-square-foot site’s generous outdoor space for both socializing and activities. By request, land has been reserved for a future community garden and dog run. Yet most important may be the central courtyard, which acts as a gathering space for the three buildings.

“This project was so centered around the idea of community and bringing people together,” says Bernal. “The traditional SRO models work well in a lot of ways,” he adds. “But there are also some advantages to doing it slightly differently.”
Comic-Con International
The nonprofit plans for a sort of yearlong Comic-Con in Balboa Park

Comic-Con International revealed its museum plans Thursday after a three-year wait with the intention to bring a piece of the pop culture juggernaut to Balboa Park year-round.

San Diego Comic-Con said it will open its museum in summer 2021 and will have two art galleries, a theater, rotating exhibits, outdoor seating, a gift shop with exclusive merchandise, cafe and an extensive education center. It will be the first museum to open at the park in nearly 20 years.

The stakes are high for the museum with organizers, and community leaders, betting it can reinvigorate an underused part of Balboa Park and be a beacon for tourism in the city once the pandemic is over.

“We want to do our part to contribute to San Diego as a thriving city,” said Melissa Peterman, head of development for the museum. “We also want to create something that is sustainable.”

Comic-Con said it made the announcement this week because it is at the halfway point of its fundraising goal of $34 million. The roughly $17 million gathered so far has come from fans that gave as low as $10 to big contributions and sponsorships from AT&T, DC, U.S. Bank, Cox Communications and others.

City of San Diego officials gave Comic-Con the 68,000-square-foot former San Diego Hall of Champions building in March 2017. The sports-themed museum had been in the park since 1961. The lease was signed by John Rogers, the convention’s long-time president who died in November 2018.

A unique aspect of the museum will be a cafe (with alcoholic beverages) and programming for adults in the evening when most museums in the park are closed. The museum’s hours are not yet decided. The bar of restaurant Panama 66 in the park stays open until 10 p.m. some nights, which may indicate how late Comic-Con’s cafe could operate.

Miro Copic, a marketing lecturer at San Diego State University, said Comic-Con is a unique draw and its museum should bring in plenty of locals and out-of-town visitors. Its success will depend on how well it keeps up with pop culture trends — much like the convention itself.

“Comic-Con is an ongoing, living, breathing organism. It really morphs and changes,” he said.

In the convention’s more than 50-year history, it has gone from a relatively small group of comic book and science-fiction fans meeting in tiny venues to an international phenomenon that draws the biggest names in Hollywood. While the core product — comic books — might have diminished in importance, it has raised the profile of its characters.

On Tuesday, when much of the park was shuttered and crowds were thin, the Laskis family of Scottsdale, Ariz., looked with curiosity at the building that will house the Comic-Con Museum.

Adam and Emma Laskis said they visit San Diego every year and were coming back from a visit to the San Diego Air and Space Museum with their sons, ages 3 and 1, as they stopped to look at the Comic-Con sign. They said they were excited to visit the Comic-Con Museum when it opens and their 3-year-old son is a fan of Captain America, star of many Marvel films.

“We want to expose our kids to as much as we can,” Adam Laskis said.

Comic-Con, a nonprofit that also runs Anaheim’s WonderCon, has been slow to release information on what the museum would look like. In October 2019, the executive director of the museum, Adam Smith, left after two years on the job. The organization characterized Smith’s leaving as the end of a “phase one” of museum planning and it would now enter a “phase two.”

Since then, Comic-Con’s board of directors has handled seeing the museum to fruition. One of the people in charge has been Peterman, who leads development at the museum. She has been with the Comic-Con organization for 2 1/2 years after a career working with homeless housing efforts at the San Diego Housing Commission. She has degrees from San Diego State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Peterman said the museum will not be finished when it opens next summer, but will continue to be worked on and completed in phases until 2024. One of the things that will be done by 2021 will be its education center on the second floor, with classes Comic-Con says will be centered on creativity. It said the space can be used for graphic novel clubs, field trips and summer camps.

She said the idea is to use
Félix Michaud

The single-story brick-and-concrete-masonry-unit building at 1042 Queen St. E in Toronto’s Leslieville neighborhood has always been associated with food. Built in 1949 as an A&P grocery store, it has since served as a vegetable wholesaler and even an indoor bean sprout farm. Its newest life, after an extensive renovation designed by local firm LAMAS with executive architect MGBA, is as a trendy farm-to-table restaurant and brewery.

The biggest challenge for the LAMAS team, led by principals Weihan Vivian Lee, AIA, and James Macgillivray, was reconfiguring and expanding the structure—all within the existing footprint. The basement was excavated to accommodate a full lower level, and the floor in the center of the structure was removed to create a double-height brew house. Throughout, the structural steel was doubled to accommodate the modifications.

That steel was necessary to support the added weight of an urban rooftop farm that provides everything from salad greens for the kitchen to pungent herbs for the beer. “To convert it into something that would support a green roof was a lot of gymnastics,” Macgillivray says.

Looking beyond just supplying the kitchen, the garden is also a test nursery for different cultivars of ancient grains to determine which would thrive best at local farms. “The larger mission became trying to use the baked-in interest craft-beer fans have in ingredients, flavor, and provenance to shine a light on local cuisine and the need to rethink agricultural problems and opportunities in the food system,” owner Max Meighen says. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the roof also provided vegetables for CSA boxes, which supplemented the restaurant’s income.

The most public-facing part of the building is, of course, the restaurant’s dining room, and the team wanted it to be flexible: “It’s a large space that we thought could become a hub for the neighborhood. People are in need of spaces to do work in during the day and there are a lot of young families,” Lee says. “We wanted to kind of capture the potential of that for this community.”

To that end, the space was split into different zones, with low tables, zinc-topped high-top tables, booths, and bar seating. “There’s the idea of four different fields of activity—almost like a crop rotation,” Macgillivray says. And the focus wasn’t just on dining: “We were deliberate about having a lot of open space to accommodate strollers, wheelchairs, and multiple configurations,” Meighen says. Before the pandemic, the space hosted events from wedding receptions to lecture series, so the flexibility is key.

Light fills the space—both from large windows out to the street and into the skylit brew house, as well as from the pendant light fixtures that create a plane below the ceiling. The white concrete block walls are offset by pink-painted exposed structural steel, gray felt runners applied to the walls that serve as acoustical control, and colorful murals by local artist Madison van Rijn. A series of nonstructural wood frames help define seating areas and “play with your sense of scale,” Lee says. “When you have repetitive members that keep stretching and reinforcing the receding line, the space looks bigger.”

But not everything is new: The original terrazzo floors were patched with concrete and polished, and the existing wood-joist ceiling was left exposed. “You have to make decisions about which things are worth preserving to maintain the character of the original space,” Lee says. “It might have been easier to get a new roof, but it makes a huge difference to have that patina.”

At press time, Avling has reopened for outdoor dining in addition to its grocery business, and Meighen is excited to see what the future will bring: “We didn’t design the operation with a pandemic in mind,” he says, “but a multifaceted, flexible, and adaptive model was always the plan.”
BoysPlayNice via ORA
When Znojmo-based architecture studio ORA was tapped to reconstruct a fascinating old ruin into a new home in the Czech town of Jevíčko, the young architects quickly decided against a traditional repair. Originally built as a homestead that was converted into a granary during the communist regime, the existing brick building had suffered significant damage. But it still retained a strong architectural character that ORA believed would be lost if a traditional renovation was attempted. Instead, the architects elegantly inserted a contemporary, energy-efficient home inside the ruins to pay homage to the historic architecture while providing all the conveniences and comforts of modern living.

Constructed over the course of two years, the House Inside a Ruin project began with the teardown of the inner partition walls and floors to return the building to its original layout of two floors rather than three. Structurally sound wooden beams salvaged from the ruins were repurposed into ceiling beams and truss elements. The architects then built a new, insulated house into the existing ruins and kept a ventilated gap between the new and original structure so that the buildings do not touch.

The well-insulated home is centered on a double-height, open-plan living space, kitchen and dining room with an en suite bedroom on the ground floor. Stairs lead to the upper floor, where four additional bedrooms are located. Large windows frame views of the open landscape through the massive old walls of the original brick building.

“The project is our manifesto of how it is possible to treat old houses,” the architects explained. “It is not necessary to lose the authenticity of old age. It is not necessary to demolish, neither to reconstruct dogmatically. At the same time, even in such a case, it is possible to build economically using modern materials and achieve the required parameters.”

Dan Fionte/courtesy Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, has history as rich as the artifacts it houses. Over the centuries, the institution has occupied a number of buildings on the site, notably a 2003 extension by Moshe Safdie. In the most recent chapter of the museum’s story, a new expansion includes not only additional gallery space by Ennead Architects, but also an adjoining 3,700-square-foot formal garden by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.

The museum was founded in 1799, as a center for members of the East India Marine Society—namely captains who had sailed Eastward to Asia—to display artifacts procured during their travels. After several mergers with other regional museums, today the Peabody houses extensive maritime, American, and Asian art collections. For its landscape design, Nelson Byrd Woltz drew inspiration from this “cross-pollination of cultures,” says senior associate Mark Streiter, and translated it into the museum’s horticulture.

The manicured garden—which was previously a parking lot and shares walls with the old and new buildings—is divided into three distinct sections, separated by hedges, that correspond to the cultures represented within the galleries. One area is dedicated to regional specimens from the Northeastern United States, including Christmas ferns, while another incorporates Asiatic plants, such as painted lady ferns and Japanese witch hazel. But, Streiter notes, there are plants that are native to both continents (like the rhododendron and sedum varieties, for example), so they added a convergence garden in the center for these species.

Embedded throughout the granite-paved courtyard is a sinuous ribbon, hewn from a darker version of the locally sourced stone, that meanders through each of these areas, enticing visitors to follow its path through the different sections.

The curve underfoot is echoed in two water features, suggesting the museum’s maritime history and the local landscape: a water wall in the North American garden and the “poetry fountain” in the “hybrid” area. Originating from two source basins at either end of the fountain, water flows through a serpentine channel and converges in a central basin symbolizing a melding of cultures, says Serena Nelson, associate at the firm. “The garden is all completely custom-built around the museum’s story,” she says. “It isn’t just a stage for a few art pieces, like other museum gardens.”
Mark Scowen via Collingridge and Smith Architects
In the rural New Zealand haven of Dairy Flat, U.K.-based architecture firm Collingridge and Smith Architects has recently completed the Fantails Estate, an early learning center for 154 babies and preschoolers. Designed to sit sensitively within its rural context, the modern building is built primarily of timber and opens up to the outdoors with large windows and areas for outdoor play. Sustainability has also been naturally woven into the design, which includes a rainwater harvesting system, onsite blackwater treatment, a high-insulated building envelope and passive solar principles.

Set over 3.5 hectares of land, the Fantails Estate was conceived as a unique “luxury lodge” for children. The center features a radial plan with six individual blocks fanned out around a geometric timber canopy and centrally located car park. The six blocks comprise five individual classrooms as well as a private staff block housing the kitchen, laundry and administrative spaces.

Each classroom opens up to a shaded, north-facing terrace that connects to a large playground and countryside views. The integration of all-weather play spaces provides children with seven times the minimum area for outdoor play, with each child allotted approximately 52 square meters of individual play space, according to the architects. The sizing and orientation of the blocks are also optimized for indoor access to natural light and ventilation. Low-E glazed sliding doors emphasize the indoor/outdoor connection.

A warm, natural materials palette defines both the exterior and interior, the latter of which is fitted with custom-designed cabinetry and play equipment for a cohesive feel. Steel beams and posts were minimally incorporated into the building’s timber envelope so as to minimize the center’s overall carbon footprint. In addition to a high-performance envelope that minimizes heat loss, the architects oriented the building for solar gains in winter and natural shading and thermal mass cooling in summer.

Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
As they grow accustomed to working from home, many businesses are delaying signing new leases until rents drop and the pandemic passes.

Even as the coronavirus pandemic appears to recede in New York, corporations have been reluctant to call their workers back to their skyscrapers and are showing even more hesitation about committing to the city long term.

Fewer than 10 percent of New York’s office workers had returned as of last month and just a quarter of major employers expect to bring their people back by the end of the year, according to a new survey. Only 54 percent of these companies say they will return by July 2021.

Demand for office space has slumped. Lease signings in the first eight months of the year were about half of what they were a year earlier. That is putting the office market on track for a 20-year low for the full year. When companies do sign, many are opting for short-term contracts that most landlords would have rejected in February.

At stake is New York’s financial health and its status as the world’s corporate headquarters. There is more square feet of work space in the city than in London and San Francisco combined, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate brokerage firm. Office work makes up the cornerstone of New York’s economy and property taxes from office buildings account for nearly 10 percent of the city’s total annual tax revenue.

What is most unnerving is that a recovery could unfold much more slowly than it did after the Sept. 11 attacks and the financial crisis of 2008. That’s largely because the pandemic has prompted companies to fundamentally rethink their real estate needs.

Robert Ivanhoe, a real estate lawyer at Greenberg Traurig, said he had about 20 clients that had postponed searches for new offices. “They are putting a lot of thought into coming up with a new operating model — how much of my work force is going to work from home and for how much time?” he said. “It has never been turned upside down like this before.”

Real estate data confirms that. The number of office leases signed from January through August totaled 13.7 million square feet, less than half as much as the first eight months of last year, according to Colliers International, a real estate brokerage firm. By contrast, leasing hit an 18-year high at the end of last year with nearly 43 million square feet of new leases and renewals.

“When it comes to making decisions about office leases, the words are postpone, adjourn and delay,” said Ruth Colp-Haber, the chief executive of Wharton Property Advisors, a real estate brokerage firm.

Executives at the meal delivery company Freshly were ready to sign a lease for 50,000 square feet of office space at 2 Park Avenue, a stately, 29-story Art Deco tower in Midtown, in March.

But the coronavirus abruptly shut New York down for several months, and the company “hit pause” on its expansion, said Michael Wystrach, Freshly’s founder and chief executive. The company is still considering new office space, but he isn’t sure when it would sign a lease. “We are long-term believers in New York City.”

During any weekday in Midtown, the sidewalks are as empty as they usually are on a Sunday, underscoring how few employees have returned. In August, a survey of major employers by the Partnership for New York found only 8 percent of employees had returned to the office and most expected to bring employees back by next summer, and another quarter of them had not decided when they would return.

Elected officials, real estate tycoons and even Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian, have issued paeans to New York’s resilience, arguing that city has a history of bouncing back. The city will soon be brimming with people, by their telling.

But pessimists — including some New York hedge fund managers — see dark days ahead. They contend that companies will tell most employees to stay away until a vaccine is widely distributed and perhaps for much longer.

Which of those two visions is closer to being right will help determine how quickly New York regains its energy, economic health and tax revenue.

Investors are not expecting a quick recovery. Shares of companies with lots of New York office space like Empire State Realty Trust, which owns the Empire State Building, and SL Green Realty, which owns the immense new One Vanderbilt tower next to Grand Central Terminal, have plunged this year.

“I think the New York office market is going to be generally chall
Eric Laignel
From the outside, the new headquarters of Wörwag—a maker of industrial paints and coatings based in Stuttgart, Germany—resembles a glowing, elongated Rubik’s Cube. Even if you didn’t know the company specialized in color, one glance at the rainbow-banded building would offer a pretty substantial clue. That, of course, was the goal, and the reason why the manufacturer brought on Interior Design Hall of Fame members Peter Ippolito and Gunther Fleitz and their Ippolito Fleitz Group to design the project. Stuttgart is home to scores of important corporations, including Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Bosch. But most of them aren’t household names. Rather, they’re “hidden champions,” as Peter Ippolito puts it, behind-the-scenes yet globally influential B2B enterprises, many working in or adjacent to the automotive sector. While they may be outside the purview of the average consumer, however, these companies still need to stand out within their respective industries, which is where IFG comes in. “We have a saying, ‘Identity is the new facility,’” Ippolito continues. “Workplace design is not only about orga­nizing processes but also about branding. If you don’t translate the company’s DNA into a space, it’s just a bunch of nicely arranged tables.”

Wörwag was keenly aware of that principle. Having constructed a four-story, 38,000-square-foot building wrapped entirely in glass—already a big statement for a medium-size business—the manufacturer sought interiors that channeled its passion for color and commitment to technological innovation. It couThat effort begins in the lobby, the drywall panels of its folded-plate ceiling painted various shades of yellow—“an active color that has a sense of focus and clarity,” Fleitz notes. Behind the reception desk, backlit shelves showcase dozens of brightly painted car parts, bicycle frames, and other bits of machinery that illustrate a wide range of Wörwag coating applications.

nted on Ippolito and Fleitz to use these brand signifiers to broadcast the company’s core values inside and outside the structure’s transparent walls.

Right next to the lobby lies one of the project’s key elements: The company cafeteria, a facility that’s typically hidden away on an upper floor but is here given pride of place, a democratic mingling ground for visitors, management, and factory workers alike. Decked out with violet ceiling panels, neon-blue benches, dark-orange wall tiles, and draperies in a shade of red known to make food look more appetizing, it was conceived to foster unexpected connections. “The idea was, Can I get a finance employee to meet one from production and they learn something from one another?” Fleitz explains. “That’s when innovation happens. It’s a strong statement that the company chooses to put this kind of space front and center.”

Upstairs, on the building’s three office levels, color plays an even larger role. The rainbow effect visible from outside is due primarily to a continuous ribbon of dropped ceilings that encircles each floor, progressing through a gradient of 70 different shades along the way. Comprising textile-covered acoustic panels arranged in a folded plate similar to those in the lobby and cafeteria, each floating ceiling acts like a pitched roof above the open work­stations lining perimeter walls, providing a feeling of privacy and a unique visual identity, “as in, Come find me in lemon-yellow,” Ippolito jokes.

Similar multihued textile-covered panels, some shaped like Wörwag’s signature paint chips, are suspended vertically from the ceiling as moveable dividers between work areas. These elements reflect Ippolito and Fleitz’s theories about workplace culture and how it informs their design decisions: “We always talk about it like an onion,” Ippolito states. “The first layer is, ‘I’m proud to be part of the company.’ The next is, ‘I’m proud to be in the building,’ and then, ‘my department, my team, and my desk.’ We try to enable that sense of belonging on every level.” Even in an open-plan setup, he says, “You have to make people feel special, so they don’t feel like a number.”

While individual workstations and a gradient ceiling mark the perimeter of each floor, the inner areas have a very different vibe. They are devoted to meeting rooms and other collaborative spaces, marked by a palette that’s pr
Adam Gibson
A dexterous restoration of a Georgian cottage in a historic Tasmanian village is executed in timber and mild steel – materials that pay tribute to the past and the story of those who have lived there.

In the backstreets of Oatlands, a small town in Tasmania’s midlands renowned for its collection of early-nineteenth-century Georgian buildings, you’ll stumble across Bozen’s Cottage. It’s a tiny sandstone house that was built for one Jane Pain in the early 1840s, who made a new home for herself in Van Diemen’s Land in her early seventies. One hundred and eighty-odd years later, with the house well-worn and buckled with time, Taylor and Hinds Architects has conserved and inlaid its structure and spaces for contemporary living, intimately engaging everyday histories of the place, building and its inhabitants.

The Georgian cottage sits close to the street, with outbuildings splayed around it on a sparsely planted block. It’s a proud building with a high hipped roof giving a sense of dignity to the two front rooms and relaxing to skillion over the two back rooms. In this project, the cottage has been returned to this original form by shaving off a twentieth-century extension and creating a sheltered courtyard and terrace with bricks from a demolished fireplace. Another fireplace is retained, standing sentinel in tribute to the past and the process of transformation.

This intertwining of the cottage’s past and present defines the house. The buckled eastern wall required rebuilding, and it is here that the cottage’s most idiosyncratic intervention occurs: a contemporary large-format window spans two rooms, connecting them to the outdoors. (Apparently the new window has been hotly debated by locals at Oatland’s Midlands Hotel). But it’s a layer of palimpsest – a new window where Georgian windows and walling were once replaced with Victorian counterparts, perhaps an earlier measure to save the wall as it began to bend.

The new accommodation is arranged within the cottage’s original four rooms, the only addition being a new back porch. At the front, a bedroom and library are separated by a short entry hallway. Behind are the living room and kitchen. A fifth room, a “secret” ensuite bathroom, is concealed between the bedroom and the kitchen. It borrows space from the kitchen but is entered from the bedroom, disguised by a panelled door detailed to match the adjacent walls. It’s an artful conceit that speaks to the integrity and modesty of the historic four-room cottage.

The interiors, then, entail repairing and reinterpreting – not reconstructing – the materials and techniques of colonial builders, who had sought to define volumes, edges and openings in pursuit of a Georgian aesthetic. In the hallway, damaged layers of floor coverings, wallpapers and hessian have been peeled back to reveal pit-sawn floorboards and original wall linings of Baltic pine. In the principal rooms, new layers have been added, including bench and window seats, shelves and linings. The walls have been finished with a new veneer of Tasmanian oak ply, detailed to frame the existing skirtings, doors, windows and original boarded ceilings above. Throughout, an off-the-shelf Georgian moulding is used in new ways that extend from an understanding of its role in the original making of the cottage’s rooms. While clear finishes are used on the new timber linings and their details, the ceilings are painted in shades of greens identified from salvaged wallpapers. Such continuities linking old and new in the cottage are always conversational, collapsing time and, almost miraculously, expanding space within the tiny building.

These “conversations” include the telling of stories researched by the cottage’s owners, Doug and Alison Bridge. The original owner Jane Pain died in 1844 and the cottage was bequeathed to her son, John, a carpenter, and his wife Mary. It was subsequently sold several times until it was purchased in 1903 by George Pennicott, an Oatlands blacksmith. George built a forge, and the cottage remained in his family for the next 114 years, bequeathed to his son Ernest, a blacksmith and timber yard worker, and his wife Alice, and then to their son Bozen, who called the cottage home until 2017, and who is now remembered as its namesake.
Genesis Property
A building standard pitched as making indoor spaces “immune” to the coronavirus aims to get more employees back to the office.

Special quarantine rooms. Floor-to-ceiling walls in bathroom stalls. Touchless entrances that take your temperature. This is what telecommunications company Ericsson’s office building in Bucharest looks like after coronavirus. The space has become the pilot for a 100-prong coronavirus standard that a real estate investor in Eastern Europe is pitching as a new global “immune” building standard.

Liviu Tudor, president of the Brussels-based European Property Federation, hopes the standard will convince more employees to go back to work. He’s gathered a team of experts in construction, health care and engineering, such as such as Adrian Streinu-Cercel, the head of Bucharest's biggest infectious diseases hospital, to develop three tiers of “immune” building certifications that he says are intended to make indoor spaces “pandemic proof.”

Tudor says he’s in talks with 50 other U.S. and European real estate developers about using the criteria in their own buildings and he plans to present his ideas to the European Union. But even if it isn’t widely adopted, he’s already implementing the ideas in a pilot building in Bucharest, providing a window into what office life could look like for some workers after the coronavirus.

"The new workspace is going to be a different experience from the moment you walk into an office building, to all the common areas, the restrooms, the food court and all the way to the actual desks,” says Tudor, whose company, Genesis Property, owns and operates 1.6 million square feet of office space. “We are talking about mostly open floor offices, with desk separators and 2 meters (6 feet) distance between desks.”

Alexandru Rafila, an expert in microbiology and Romania’s representative in the management board of the WHO, says several of these measures, such as distance between desks and disinfecting in key spaces, are common sense. But he cautions against dramatic increases in construction costs and investments based mostly on speculation that can appear opportunistic, especially in response to a virus in which human behavior plays a key role in the spread of the disease.

“Of course the safer the environment the better,” says Rafila, “but as long as we all respect the rules and maintain the distancing, wear the mask and regularly wash and disinfect our hands we don’t need to get into the other extreme.”

Tudor has invested at least 1 million euros in the project so far to incorporate the standard into his own buildings, where he says many employees have already returned to work. Among the other requirements in Tudor’s standard are features like hands-free access to office doors and elevators, separate entrances and exits, the use of anti-microbial paint and UV light disinfection overnight.
A fusion of Japanese and Mexican architectural techniques feature in this restaurant on Mexico's Pacific Ocean, designed by TAX Architects for Hotel Escondido.

Called Kakurega Omakase, the restaurant is for Hotel Escondido near the lively Mexican port town of Puerto Escondido that is famous for surfing. Based in Mexico City, TAX Architects created the architecture of the hotel's restaurant to feature a combination of Mexican and Japanese designs.

Kakurega means hideout or refuge in Japanese and is similar to the Spanish word escondido, after which the hotel is named, that means hidden.

In keeping with Hotel Escondido's thatched-roof bungalows, which were designed by Mexico City architect Federico Rivera Río, TAX Architects also created the restaurant with a massive natural covering.

Known as palapa, this structure is a traditional construction method in the Oaxacan region comprising layers of palm branches on a wood frame.

Other contemporary projects that feature palapa include Monte Uzulu boutique hotel and Tadao Ando's Casa Wabi artist retreat, both of which are nearby.

To add a Japanese touch to the design, TAX Architects opted for blackened wood beams using the traditional Japanese technique shou sugi ban.

Thick wooden beams scale two storeys to support the massive overhanging palapa roof, which is formed by thinner charred boards. Blackened wood planks also form the floor.

The restaurant is two levels and features bricks walls on the ground level made from reddish clay sourced and fired locally. The walls create private enclosures with concrete floors built lower into the ground and have plantings, a reflection pool, areas to sit and a covered space to prepare foods.

Bates Smart
Bates Smart has re-designed a mixed-use tower planned for 32-44 Flinders Street, Melbourne, changing its use from residential to commercial and reducing the ground floor area.

The original tower planned for the site was designed by SJB for Dexus and approved by the minister for planning in 2016. The new owner of the site, the GPT Group, is now seeking an amendment to the existing permit to change its use and make adjustments to the approved envelope.

Bates Smart’s scheme includes a dedicated pedestrian thru-block, which would be designed to provide a strong visual and physical connection with the surrounding public realm and allow for access to Flinders Street and Flinders Lane.

This link would also allow for views to the eastern boundary wall of the adjacent heritage Ernst and Young Building.

Though the form of the tower will remain largely as previously approved, their presentation will alter to reflect their use.

The amendment proposal is going before council’s Future Melbourne Committee on 1 September, with council planners recommending that councillors should not object to the development. The planning minister has final planning authority.

“It is considered that the proposed amendments represent improved built form, urban design and public realm outcomes,” the report to council states. “This includes the provision of a dedicated and more direct through block link between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane. The reduced width of the Flinders Lane podium also allows for a greater appreciation of the three-dimensional form of the adjacent historic Ernst and Young building immediately to the east.”
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Australia-based architecture firm Fender Katsalidis Architects have placed first in an international competition to design Central Place Sydney, a new landmark development at Sydney’s Central Station in the Central Business District. The $2.5 billion commercial development is expected to revitalize the city’s busiest transport interchange on the western edge of Central Station. The project will feature a vibrant public realm along with two tech-focused office towers equipped with the very first AI-driven facade system powered entirely by renewable energy.

Developed in partnership with developers Dexus and Frasers Property Australia, Central Place Sydney will feature a 37-story tower and a 39-story tower set on a low-rise plinth that will engage the streetscape with ground-level retail, collaborative community spaces and extensive landscaping. Designed as a core element of the district’s burgeoning Tech Central area, the mixed-use development will offer approximately 150,000 square meters of office and retail space. The ground floor is highly permeable, and all public spaces were designed with a focus on easy and efficient pedestrian flow.

The architects expect Central Place Sydney to be one of the most sustainable commercial developments in Australia. Not only will the project include highly flexible workspaces that integrate nature via winter gardens and outdoor terraces, but indoor spaces will also have ample access to natural light and ventilation via operable windows and an automated facade system. The site-specific design approach informed the shape of the buildings, which are engineered to mitigate wind forces and maximize natural light. The computer-controlled, renewable energy-powered facade will shield the interiors from unwanted solar gain.

“Central Place Sydney’s focal point is a major new civic space wrapped with activated retail edges, enriched by two commercial towers and a landmark central building,” said Mark Curzon, design director for Fender Katsalidis Architects. “It will redefine the precinct, completing Sydney’s vision for a ‘third square.'”
Colton Duke on Unsplash
Brooklyn Bridge Forest, a design that reimagines the Brooklyn Bridge as an icon of climate action and social equity, has been selected winner of the Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge competition, an international design challenge presented by Van Alen Institute and the New York City Council.

The project is the creative brainchild of Montreal-based designer and urbanist, Scott Francisco, who was inspired by his his daily walks across the bridge from Brooklyn to lower Manhattan.

Francisco envisioned an opportunity to reimagine the bridge as a way to connect New York City and its residents to forests and natural systems, improve quality of life, and extend the impact of the 137-year-old structure as a source of inspiration and a platform for addressing pressing problems that challenge our planet.

Rooted in over ten years of research and activism by Francisco’s Pilot Projects Design Collective , Wildlife Conservation Society, Cities4Forests, Grimshaw Architects, and Silman, Brooklyn Bridge Forest triples the capacity for active transit, brings biodiverse forest and green spaces into the city, and establishes a partnership to conserve an expanse of Central American tropical forest, all while respecting and maintaining the beloved structure.

The design expands the historic wooden walkway using planks sustainably sourced from a “partner forest,” helping a community in Guatemala protect a 200,000-acre biodiverse rainforest.

A new dedicated bike path and reclaimed traffic lanes more than triple the space for active and low-carbon transit, while biodiverse microforests at either end of the bridge bring nature to New York City, and serve as green spaces for underserved communities.

Also included in the plan, is an integrated community hub to provide leadership opportunities for youth, centered around the relationship between conservation, diversity, engineering and design.

A visionary conservationist and urbanist, Francisco’s mission is to inspire every major city to match their power with their responsibility and invest in new ways to protect and sustain the natural environments that they depend on well beyond their city limits.

“The urgency of climate change and challenges like the current COVID-19 pandemic illustrate the critical need for systems thinking locally and globally. We need public spaces and transit options designed to prioritize sustainability, health and equity. This is the time to co-create infrastructure and culture systems that protect all people and our future,” said Francisco. “We are energized by this victory for healthier cities and the global environment and look forward to working with a broad array of stakeholders to make this vision for the Brooklyn Bridge a reality.”

Getty Images/Westend61
Despite what cable news is saying every day, a mass migration to the suburbs isn’t happening.

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a story about how there are bidding wars for homes in tristate area suburbs, and how urban apartment dwellers (especially those with kids) are worried about the uncertainties of living in crowded cities come winter. It’s the latest piece to explore the impacts of COVID-19 on national housing markets, and seems to support the theory that cities are being abandoned en masse in favor of suburbs. This theory has frequently been posited by the New York City–based news media, where TV producers and newspaper editors know many professionals with the means to relocate. But it seems to be something of a distorted narrative; The past six months of housing data clearly indicate that the trend is really only visible in two places (both of which were, until recently, among the most overheated housing markets on the planet): Manhattan and San Francisco, which were seeing outbound migration prior to the pandemic because of extremely expensive housing.

There’s no shortage of examples of the COVID-19 urban flight story. CNBC.com doubled down on it with a June headline of “The flight to the suburbs is real and growing.” On its cable network, CNBC recycles this narrative regularly, and opened a segment on the housing market this week by saying, “The housing market is staying hot as people continue to flee the big cities for the suburbs.”

If you live in a city, you probably know people who have left for the suburbs since the pandemic hit. There’s no denying the reality that many people have done this since March; many people also did this prior to the pandemic, and many more will do so in the years to come.

“People move out of New York all the time,” says Nancy Wu, an economist with StreetEasy. “The people who are moving to the suburbs to start a family there or to have a bigger place are looking now and buying their houses now, rather than renting in Manhattan for a few more years.”

But a nationwide, pandemic- or protest-induced urban-to-suburban migration taking place on a scale that impacts both urban and suburban housing markets in a measurable way? There is zero empirical evidence to support such a trend. None. Nothing. Zero.

Earlier this month, real-estate-listings giant Zillow published an exhaustive study examining every conceivable housing-market data point related to cities and suburbia to see if there are major divergences that suggest an urban-to-suburban migration trend.

Are pending home sales between urban and suburban areas different now than they were before the pandemic? They aren’t!

Are suburban homes selling more quickly than homes in urban areas? Nope!

Are suburban homes selling above their list price at a higher rate than urban homes? Not at all!

Are urban homes seeing price cuts at a higher rate than suburban homes? If anything, the opposite!

Are home valuations accelerating faster in suburban areas than in urban areas? Urban zip codes have a slight edge!

Are suburban home listings getting a larger share of search traffic relative to urban areas now than they were last year? The suburban share is actually down 0.2 percentage points!

This list is only a small sample of the myriad ways in which housing-market data do not support the theory of an urban exodus. (See also: People are not searching for larger homes in 2020 compared to 2019.) So why do news outlets keep repeating this thoroughly debunked narrative? Well, there are half-truths to the narrative that — if you string them together — form what sounds like a logical idea.

Yes, suburban housing markets are booming, but that’s not because of outbound migration from cities. When cities went into lockdown in the early days of the pandemic, housing markets completely stalled during what is usually the busiest time of year for home sales. In the late spring and summer, as people came came out of lockdown, markets across the country — suburban and otherwise — began seeing spikes of pent-up demand. At the same time, the number of homes for sale has plummeted and remained down around 30 percent of what it has been in recent years — leaving the market with nearly twice the demand and two-thirds of the supply. Couple that with record-low interest rates, and prices are rising dramatically all over the country.

The two exceptions to this are San Francisco and Manhatt
As the world continues to reel from the impacts of COVID-19, we are all working to figure out how to best proceed in this new context. One element of our reality that is undiminished is climate change. And while some may say it is too early to focus on anything but COVID-19, I say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to refashion our work, and our lives, toward climate change solutions and visions of a better world. We will pick up the pieces—how we put them back together is up to us.

Debra Roberts, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warns that “the next few years are probably the most important in our history … Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” The challenge is one of speed and scale. A few exceptional buildings by elite firms will not get us there. We need strong policies, transformative innovations, and replicable climate change solutions that lift all boats.We are struck by the parallels between COVID-19 and our larger, slower-burning climate crisis, by the consequences of inaction in the face of science, of underfunding vital research, of insufficient and slow response. In light of the urgency for action commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge, and the need for a clear vision for the built environment moving forward, EHDD is committing to advancing what we are calling “climate positive” design across our portfolio.

Our vision will be advanced in concert with colleagues, clients, and collaborators towards the ultimate goal of a built environment that is genuinely climate-positive by 2030. If EHDD’s portfolio can get there by 2030, we hope California can do so by 2040 and the rest of the US by 2050. To say this is ambitious is a grand understatement: It is the most significant transformation since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

The Principles of Climate Positive Design

1. Electrify Everything

We simply cannot continue to burn natural gas and other fossil fuels in our buildings and expect to conquer the climate crisis. Let’s electrify everything and run all our buildings on electricity coming from on-site photovoltaics and an increasingly clean electricity grid.

Stop burning fossil fuels.

Joe Biden’s climate plan includes eliminating all emissions from the electricity sector by 2035. This reflects the current reality that the renewable energy component of the electricity grid is increasing at a rate that even advocates would not have imagined a few years ago. In order to truly get to zero emission buildings, we need to hitch our wagons to this speeding train and run our buildings on electricity.

In my home state of California, dozens of municipalities have banned natural gas hookups in new buildings over the past year. And in our practice and that of many of our peers, all electric design is standard. For new construction the economics are clear that all electric buildings can cost less to build and operate if designed correctly.

Maximize efficiency and PVs.

Energy efficiency is as important as ever. In states with strong energy codes, like California, Washington, and New York, meeting or slightly beating the energy code is often good enough, in concert with electrification. If your energy codes are not up to snuff, consider using California’s code as a benchmark target. The cost of installing on-site photovoltaics has dropped precipitously over the past several years, such that in most cases there is an excellent return on investment on installations. Who doesn’t like a energy bill of zero dollars? Sign me up.

Use clean energy.

One of the challenges we will increasingly face is that there is plenty of clean energy available when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, but we need to fire up dirty power plants at night and during peak usage periods. The more we can align our energy use with the resources on the grid, the better chance we have of reaching an emission-free economy cost-effectively.

New electric appliances like heat pump hot water heaters allow you to schedule use to avoid peak emission periods, and smart meters allow utilities to remotely apply “demand management” for willing customers. Our Sonoma Clean Power Headquarters is the first pilot project for the USGBC and New Buildin
Robert Frith
In the remote Pilbara town of Newman, 1,200 kilometres north of Perth, a Sydney architecture practice has designed a striking rammed-earth health facility that embodies the knowledge of the local community and provides better healthcare on Country.

The traditional owners of the land are the Nyiyaparli people, and the Martu people are the custodians of the land. Newman was built as a mining town in the 1960s, but until now has lacked a primary health care clinic.

David Kaunitz, founder of Kaunitz Yeung Architecture, said that often the only option for locals had been to travel to Perth to access healthcare or a dialysis machine.

“That’s far away for anyone, but particularly taking Aboriginal people off Country to such a faraway place, it was quite a quite a big deal,” he said. “It just compounds the effects of non-Aboriginal settlement on Aboriginal communities, to take cultural knowledge away from communities.”

The new facility, which cost $8 million and was funded by the federal Department of Health, allows for a broadening of service delivery, with a focus on allied health, dental, physio, child and maternal health. The building is designed so that the available services and programs can develop and evolve over time.

It was commissioned by Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Services (PAMS), an Aboriginal-run not-for-profit that also operates clinics in the communities of Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu and Kunawarritji.

Kaunitz Yeung oversaw the design of the Punmu and Parnngurr clinics, and the Newman facility integrates design, sustainability, clinical and prefabrication techniques from those earlier projects.

Central to all these projects was an in-depth consultation process, which was not just about what the building looked like, but much more about what the buildings were going to facilitate and allow.

“The cornerstone of that is spending a lot of time in the community not making assumption, listening to local people and repeating the process, providing forums and both formal and informal opportunities for every voice to be heard,” said Kaunitz.

The architects worked closely with PAMS CEO Robby Chibawe in ensuring the process was culturally appropriate and meaningful.

“The respectful and collaborative approach by Kaunitz Yeung Architecture with the Martu Elders and communities has created a deep sense of ownership and pride in this health centre amongst the local community,” said Chibawe.

“They feel respected; and respect to Martu people is very, very important. Any program or facility needs to respect the Elders and the people – without that nothing can work.”

When it came to designing the building itself, a key decision was to organize the building around an open, central courtyard. This move helped resolve the dichotomy of the building, one side being the clinic and the other admin offices, and helped to de-institutionalize and humanize the facility.

Kaunitz said the design of the courtyard went through several iterations, but that the input of Elders and local people inspired a pared-back approach.

“Sometimes in architecture, we can design and design and we add and add things, but actually just leaving an open roof because brands space sort of did what it needed to do in functional and created that kind of openness,” he said.

Another key contribution from the local communities can be seen in the screens over the windows, which serve the function of shading and providing security, but which are also adorned with seven artworks produced by 27 local artists, representing different communities, different Mobs and across genders.

The hero of the building, according to Kaunitz, is the rammed earth, something which sets the clinic apart from almost all remote health clinics in Australia, where Colorbond cladding predominates due to cost constraints and questions of durability.

In this case, the material for the rammed earth came from the site, so it was mostly free and there was no need for transportation.

“And this is the Pilbara,” said Kaunitz, “the earth is such an unbelievable colour, it is awe inspiring really.”

The rammed earth went up early in the process of building the clinic, and sat on site for some time before the rest of the building went up.

“The materials changed with the rain and the seasons
Joe Fletcher
OPA designs its faceted ‘shapeshifter’ house outside reno, nevada for two art collectors and dealers specializing in contemporary art and art of the american west. following the clients’ move from the arid high desert outside of reno to a less remote site overlooking the city, the team generated a house that both reflects the contemporary moment and explicitly embraces the harsh climate of the west. influenced by the the new site, which looks out toward the desert mountains in the distance, the team at OPA treats the desert as a real environment as well as its ambivalent role in the cultural imagination.

with ‘shapeshifter,’ OPA explores slippery form by treating the ground as a mutable material, an untapped unconscious. inspired by desert topography, the team reshapes the site to recall landform conditions and folding layers of rock — gradually the form of the house emerged with the terrain. what was at first conceived of as a soft form was hardened into a faceted mesh. every edge is entirely shared — no edges terminate in the middle of another edge. the result expresses a flow of space that supports extreme difference without discontinuities. elements of the house slide into each other with shifting relationships of fractured symmetries, local axes, and embedded parallelisms. topologically, the house is spatially slippery, a twisted torus with several secondary and tertiary bubbles of space.

OPA investigates a new model for ecological architecture in the design of ‘shapeshifter.’ the project develops a synthetic ground to protect the house against its harsh desert landscape. with this approach, site and landscape are inextricably linked. formally, the house is carved from a thick shell, composed either of the natural ground or a two-foot thick, heavily insulated wall and roof assemblies. like a high desert creature, the house uses the thickness of the ground — both real and synthetic — as a buffer against the harsh desert landscape. the result is a high-performance passive structure which maintains a comfortable living temperature using only radiant heating and cooling.

The coronavirus pandemic is having huge impacts on the built environment. And those impacts will continue to be felt for the foreseeable future. Our homes, offices, and schools will need to be reconfigured, repurposed and, in some cases, completely reimagined. For years I’ve advocated for a concept called Open Building. With the premise that long-term use and adaptability of buildings and places is inherently more sustainable, Open Building seeks to enhance longevity and resilience through a set of basic principles that affect design, as well as how buildings are constructed and managed over time.

Today, we build 100-year buildings that have constantly changing program needs. Too often, these structures become obsolete within as little as 5 or 10 years. Because funding cycles are long, major reconfigurations are infrequent, highly disruptive, and expensive when they occur. Buildings thought to be unadaptable are prematurely demolished and replaced. Open Building anticipates and facilitates the reconfiguration of spaces and structures facilities, so that change can occur while minimizing disruption to neighboring spaces and supporting a higher degree of local decision-making.

Why the Open Building Approach Has Special Relevance Now

The approach creates permanent settings for continuous, incremental, and, to a degree, autonomous change. We’ve seen, since just late February, a profound change in our living and working habits, and a corresponding impact on the spaces we occupy. As the school year approaches, we’re facing the prospect of empty rooms because they have lost two-thirds of their capacity due to imposed social distancing. We’re staying away from our offices or returning in selective cohorts for one or two days a week. We’re working at home, perhaps in makeshift spaces carved out of close quarters, and we are now sharing our homes with family members who had been living elsewhere. Many of our social, entertainment, cultural, and religious resources sit empty in the face of the bans on large gatherings.

If we can turn our convention centers into field hospitals, we should easily be able to reconfigure our dwellings for changing live/work situations; adjust learning clusters to accommodate more and different-sized classes with required social distancing; and successfully appropriate other spaces that have been designed to do more than one thing well. And our workspaces should be structured as blended environments, where the experience of collaborating with team members both inside and outside the office is seamless.

The Layouts of Schools, Offices, and Homes Will Change as the Pandemic Continues

School classrooms will need to flex more readily for changing cohorts of students sometimes working in greater isolation and in smaller numbers. Integrated technology will need to be tuned and intensified to allow blended learning so that students attending classes online at the same time as their counterparts learning on the spot feel equally connected and equally engaged. Other spaces, indoors and out, will need to be conceived as alternate settings for students to learn and explore in smaller groups. Air quality, regulated through a combination of natural ventilation and carefully filtered mechanical systems, will become critical considerations in the design of learning environments.

Office environments will no longer be collective 9-to-5 workplaces. Like schools, offices will be occupied by cohorts at assigned times, and meetings will be carefully orchestrated and scheduled. Nimble companies will learn to shift gears as restrictions on work environments ebb and flow according to health priorities. The expectation will be that there will be less densely occupied open work areas and more individualized space for those on specific assignments. Most if not all employees will spend a larger portion of their time working at home, again pointing to the need for adaptability and ease of change.

Homes will remain places of refuge but will evolve into more versatile environments where work is supported. With extended families going through longer and intermittent periods of sheltering in place, individual spaces may have to be designed for daily changes in use and the ability to shift interior layouts and, in favorable circumstances, expand or retract within a broader flexible framework will be increasingly important.

Wiercinski Studio
Architects and designers have created these seven dental offices with bright and colourful interiors to offer patients a more enjoyable and worry free experience.

Dent Protetyka, Poland, Adam Wiercinski

The pick-up window inside this Polish denture clinic designed by Adam Wiercinski is outlined with green lines that form the shape of medical services cross.

Located inside an old tenement building in Poznan, the 10-square-metre space is modelled after the city's small kiosk shops. Steel mesh separates the waiting room and shopfront from the tiny consultation room situated in the rear of the space.

The Urban Dentist, Germany, Studio Karhard

Studio Karhard designed The Urban Dentist in Berlin to mimic the flashy interiors of Berghain, the electronica nightclub in the German city also completed by the firm.

LED lights border the edges of the fluted glass walls, while in the treatment rooms the sink and supplies are stored inside a pink cabinet that is topped with a colourful speckled counter.

Sou Smile, Brazil, SuperLimão

Brazilian studio SuperLimão inserted a pink polycarbonate volume inside Sou Smile, a dental health treatment centre in São Paulo that manufactures dental appliances.

The rounded structure houses a consultation room, while the rest of the converted warehouse building is outfitted with open-plan workstations and a laboratory for manufacturing dental appliances.

Waiting room, China, RIGI Design

A rectangular "dining" table and play area for children feature in this colourful clinic in Tianjin, China designed by RIGI Design.

The play space is framed in the shape of a house and decorated with animal-shaped furnishings. Treatment rooms are located along a corridor fronted with glass walls. Large black digits painted on the hardwood floor designate the room number.

Ortho Wijchen, Netherlands, Studio Prototype

For this office in Wichen, Netherlands has inserted the treatment areas between translucent glass partitions. To ease patient's comfort each the of chairs faces a wall of windows that provide a view of a grassy pastoral landscape.

"The open setup of the plan and the large panoramic view towards the garden create a light and spacious place in which the patient feels comfortable," the studio said.

Go Orthodontistes, Canada, Natasha Thorpe Design

Slatted timber panels clad the walls and reception desk in this orthodontist practice in Quebec, Canada designed by Natasha Thorpe Design.

The boards of Douglas fir wood cover storage cabinets and form shelves in the office. In the consultation room there are several dental chairs and a row of black cabinets. Translucent glass spans across the laboratory and instrument sterilisation room concealing its interiors from the outside.

Impress, Spain, Raúl Sanchez Architects

The curve of a smile informed the design for Impress, a dental clinic in Barcelona designed by Raúl Sanchez Architects.

Large rounded boards crafted using pine wood form partitions in the office. The studio chose the material to add warmth to the typically white and sterile environment. Red, blue and grey accents add a playful element to the design and tie in with the company's branding.od cover storage cabinets and form shelves in the office. In the consultation room there are several dental chairs and a row of black cabinets. Translucent glass spans across the laboratory and instrument sterilisation room concealing its interiors from the outside.

These chic, modular, customizable desks are perfect for sprucing up your home office—and your work ethic.

First, there were chairs. Now, we’re covering desks—a well-worth-it investment to spruce up your space and treat yourself to a work-from-home setup that you want to spend 40 hours a week with. Considering the daily demands of working from home, the desk you set up in your personal space needs to be space-savvy, attractive, and sturdy. It’s the kind of purchase you only want to have to make a couple of times in your life. Here are four that we recommend.

Smart Desk 2 Home Office Desk
If you’re the type that goes back and forth between sitting and standing all day, chances are you want an adjustable lifting desk. Unfortunately, oftentimes these desks are clunky and, well, ugly. Autonomous’s high-quality, sleek desks look simple, but with just a push of a button a dual motor can seamlessly raise them from sitting height to standing height. The motor is incredibly powerful (it can handle up to 300 pounds) and quiet. You can customize the desk’s size and finishes—from a black or white steel frame to a black, natural bamboo, or white oak top (just to name a few). If you want a larger workspace, they also make an L-Shaped SmartDesk.

Orange 22 Minimal Float Wall Desk
I got a wall-mounted floating desk in 2015, hung it to standing height, and never looked back. The low-profile was perfect for my Washington Heights apartment at the time, and has worked great in every space I’ve lived in since. With the Minimal Float Wall Desk from Orange 22, you can choose from two different sizes (small and large) and choose from four different finishes to match your aesthetic. The desk is high-quality, modern, and incredibly versatile, with a sliding keyboard rest and a cord slot to hide all your electronics.

Gus Branch 3 Shelving Unit Desk
Behold, a desk that does the most. If you want to avoid the stuffy home office look and add storage to your space, you can’t go wrong with the Branch-3 Shelving Unit Desk from Gus. The modular system allows you to house art, plants, books, tools, and what-have-you altogether in your workspace to create an open-storage solution and homey look. The whole unit is customizable, and the shelves are height adjustable. Choose from black, natural ash, or white finishes and prepare to have your favorite home office setup to date.

Blu Dot Swish Console Desk
This no-fuss classic desk is a best seller for a reason. Its minimal, clean design and helpful storage features make it functional for just about any space. A sliding top can reveal or conceal the workspace, allowing it to morph from a desk to a console. Smart, right? Choose from different finishes for both the veneer top and steel frame to suit your space best.
Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Cities across the U.S. are pledging to plant trees and restore urban forests to combat climate change and cool off disadvantaged communities.

As the U.S. grapples with natural disasters and racial injustice, one coalition of U.S. cities, companies and nonprofits sees a way to make an impact on both fronts: trees.

Specifically, they committed to planting and restoring 855 million of them by 2030 as part of the Trillion Trees Initiative, a global push to encourage reforestation to capture carbon and slow the effects of global heating. Announced on Thursday, it’s the first nationwide pledge to the program, and additionally noteworthy because the U.S. group — which includes Microsoft Corp. and Mastercard Inc. — will focus on urban plantings as means of improving air quality in communities that have been disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change.

“We’re passionate about urban forestry and the goal of tree equity,” says Jad Daley, president and chief executive officer of American Forests, the longtime conservation group that’s helped organize the pledge. “It’s not just about more trees in cities. If you show me a map of tree cover in any city, you’re showing me a map of race and income levels. We see this as nothing less than a moral imperative.”

While the urban commitments to trees make up a small fraction of the 855 million trees pledged thus far, they do represent a significant investment in greening urban America. Tucson, Arizona, will plant 1 million trees, with Mayor Regina Romero specifically calling out a commitment to “front-line and low-income communities.” Dallas is pledging more than 18 million trees, Detroit will plant 50,000 citywide, and Chicago promised to boost its tree canopy by 4 percent. Boise, Idaho’s City of Trees challenge promises add 335,000 new trees to the city’s landscape. The Arbor Day Foundation also pledged to plant 25 million trees in urban areas nationwide.

Morgan Palun
Paris PR maven Sophie Douzal spent years finding and personalizing her family’s sun-drenched idyll

It seems that everything French public relations executive Sophie Douzal decides to do gets done with flourish, style, and a smile. Thanks to some good luck and a few high-profile clients in the luxury sector, she founded her own communications agency 25 years ago. “It was easier then,” she admits of starting her enterprise, which in addition to handling media relations also plans events, such as a pre-lockdown dinner for 300 people at the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris. “It just seemed to happen.”

It goes without saying that this energetic and friendly Parisian also loves entertaining on an intimate scale. And her innate sense of style and knack for decorating comes across loud and clear in her provincial country house. Though she didn’t find the home quickly. “My husband gave me carte blanche to find the house, but he did have three criteria,” Douzal says. It had to be less than 30 minutes from the nearest TGV train station, the ride less than two hours from Paris, and he did not want to see the neighbors. “I went to see 17 houses and was giving up, until I saw this place,” she recalls of the process five years ago. Douzal’s 18th visit brought her to an enormous piece of land with an 18th-century farmhouse that, fortuitously, had not been touched by the previous owners.

Once the family found the perfect spot, Douzal set about installing a tennis court and a pool with a pool house and began painting the seven-bedroom, six-bathroom house pink. “I wanted a pale pink house, but it ended up looking like Disneyland [at first]!” she notes, laughing. “It took a few years [of weathering] and is really pretty now.” She kept the original red tiled floor, painted the existing wooden doors, and infused the interiors with special finds. Finishing touches have just been put on the final addition, a guesthouse—a place for the couple’s four kids and their friends.

Douzal ends up going every other weekend in the spring and summer, leaving right after school on Fridays and arriving in time for dinner in the garden by 8 p.m. “We don’t generally go in the winter but always celebrate Christmas there and have Christmas dinner outside!” she notes. The house, she adds, is usually full of friends and family: “ ‘Buy a house in Provence and you will have a lifetime of friends!’ This is true!”

With the guesthouse now finished, her attention can be devoted to enjoying her real passion, the garden. Douzal worked on it with landscape designer Alexandre Phelip, who is from Corsica, and a local gardener, Benoit Hochart, who is a rose specialist.

One fairy-tale, provincial country house down, Douzal already has her sights on her next project. “I’m on to my second life! I want to buy a traditional French lifestyle brand and develop it to showcase the South of France with pretty napkins, plates, tablecloths,” she shares. “I want a piece of the sunshine!”
Lisa Cohen/Living Inside
Nothing makes a statement in the home quite like a staircase. The following ten stairways take design to the next level.

1. Firms Join Forces to Give Organic Form to a Family Villa in Melbourne
All four bedrooms are upstairs, while the main living areas—which include a formal living room, formal and casual dining areas, a large kitchen, and a sunken family room—occupy the ground floor. Within that general division, the design unfolds as a series of zones, pivoting around a sinuous staircase that curves upward in two sections.

2. Sabo Project Renovates a Paris Duplex Apartment Perfect for a Family and a Feline
Connecting the two floors of the duplex is a redesigned spiral staircase that Delaunay enclosed with slats of the plywood, spaced near enough together so no human or animal can slip through. A hinged gate at the top blocks the cat from the bedrooms while giving him run of the open-plan kitchen, dining, and living areas.

3. Espoo Residence by R2K Architectes
A radio chat in which Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki posited that storytelling originated with humans gathering around the fire to eat, drink, and share tales inspired architect Olavi Koponen’s spiraling house, which winds around a central concrete fireplace—the heart and hearth of the home. Aspen shingles clad the interior, larch the exterior; and the whole is dubbed Kotilo, which translates to “conch shell.”

4. +Arquitectos and Gubbins Polidura Arquitectos Create Weekend Retreat in Chile
Under an oculus at the center of a light-filled pavilion, a graceful spiral stair leads down to enclosed private spaces below. Compared to the public floor, whose modish curves and sunken pits are a cheerful, witty throwback to 1960s futurism, the lower level is almost monastic.

5. Massimo Giorgetti’s Seaside House in Italy Gets a Yachtlike Renovation by Storagemilano
At the “stern” of the kitchen, a teak-clad half wall conceals a narrow companionway bifurcated by a tiny landing: The steps on the left lead up to a balcony just big enough to fit a sofa and flat-screen TV; those on the right lead down to a bathroom and the master suite. The treads of the staircase are trapezoid in shape, creating a beguiling zigzag effect that’s heightened with LED underlighting.

Guallart Architects
Barcelona-based Guallart Architects has won an international competition for its design of a mixed-use, self-sufficient community in China’s Xiong’an New Area. Presented as a model for sustainable urban growth, the project champions local energy production, food production, energy efficiency and material reuse. The tech-forward proposal also takes the needs of a post-COVID-19 era and growing work-from-home trend in account by designing for comfortable telework spaces in all residences.

Established in April 2017, China’s Xiong’an New Area was created as a development hub for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei economic triangle. Guallart Architects’ winning proposal for a mixed-use community is part of a scheme to raise the cachet of Xiong’an New Area and provide a post-COVID model that could be implemented in different cities around the world.

“We cannot continue designing cities and buildings as if nothing had happened,” Guallart Architects said. “Our proposal stem from the need to provide solutions to the various crises that are taking place in our planet at the same time, in order to create a new urban life based in the circular bioeconomy that will empower cities and communities.” At the heart of the proposal is self-sufficiency; residents would produce resources locally while staying connected globally.

The mixed-use development would consist of four city blocks with buildings constructed with mass timber and passive design solutions. In addition to a mix of residential typologies, the community would include office spaces, recreational areas, retail, a supermarket, a kindergarten, an administrative center, a fire station and other communal facilities. All buildings would be topped with greenhouses to produce food for daily consumption as well as rooftop solar panels. On the ground floor, the architects have included small co-working factories equipped with 3D-printers and rapid prototyping machines for providing everyday items. All apartments would come with telework spaces, 5G networks and large south-facing terraces.

City of Ballarat/ Twitter
The City of Ballarat has appointed Sydney’s Studio Hollenstein to design the $2.5 million transformation of its library.

The Library of the Future project will see the Creswick Road library redeveloped to include an improved library entrance and a new children’s section. It will also see the first floor opened up as public space.

Studio Hollenstein was chosen through a competitive tender process in which 25 applications were received, with three architecture firms shortlisted to provide a final presentation.

“This is an exciting announcement for the hundreds of families and children who already [use] this facility and will take full advantage of the many new services that will be available to accommodate our current and future library users,” said Ballarat mayor Ben Taylor.

Studio Hollenstein with Stewart Architecture won a design competition for Sydney’s Green Square Library and Plaza in 2013, which then went on to win the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for public architecture in 2019.

The appointment has come in for some criticism from local architects, however, who have said the project should have been awarded to a local firm, according to local newspaper The Courier.

Planning and community engagement for the project is “tentatively scheduled” for September/October, subject to COVID-19 restrictions.

Council is funding the project to the tune of $1.9 million, while the state government is providing $500,000 through its Living Libraries Infrastructure Program.

The library is expected to be completed by January 2022.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Dive Brief:
  • Contractors have filed $15.8 million worth of mechanics liens on the stalled $300 million Royal Caribbean Cruises headquarters expansion in Miami, according to Miami-Dade County public records. Of those companies that have filed liens, two contractors have been paid a total of $230,493, leaving an unpaid balance of almost $15.6 million as of Aug. 24.
  • Baker Concrete Construction has the largest active lien against the Royal Caribbean project, located at the Port of Miami, in the amount of almost $11.7 million, followed by Kenneth Brest, a sub-subcontractor hired by Baker. Brest has filed liens totaling almost $2.7 million. Other active lienholders are Gancedo Lumber, which claims it is owed $84,434, and Keller North America, which says it is owed more than $1.1 million.
  • Project developer CBRE and general contractor Plaza Construction announced the start of construction on what Royal Caribbean characterized as Miami's "first true corporate campus" last summer. In March, however, Royal Caribbean announced it had halted construction due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dive Insight:

Construction Dive reached out to Royal Caribbean about the liens but had not received a response by press time.

During the company's second-quarter 2020 earnings call earlier this month, Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean CEO and president, said all capital projects had been postponed or canceled as the cruise industry waits to "get beyond this epidemic."

The company recently announced that it secured a $700 million loan facility from Morgan Stanley but said the proceeds, if drawn, would be used for general corporate purposes. There was no specific mention of paying past due bills on the headquarters project in Miami.

Royal Caribbean reported a $1.3 billion adjusted net loss after having to cancel all its cruises in the second quarter.

When asked about the mechanics liens filed against the property, Plaza representative Jorge Moros did not verify the lien amounts but confirmed to Construction Dive that Royal Caribbean had asked them to stop work.

"The parties are working together to amicably resolve all matters arising from the stoppage of the work," he said.

If the HQ project moves forward after the pandemic has run its course, the 350,000-square foot, 10-story office building will allow Royal Caribbean to double its workforce in Miami. Amenities at the new complex will include a fitness center, multiple sport courts, a soccer field, a parking garage and electric car chargers.

In May, notice and lien service provider Levelset reported that mechanics lien filings in the U.S. had increased by 40% from January through March 2020. At the time, company CEO Scott Wolfe said contractors were likely protecting themselves given the uncertain nature of the coronavirus spread and its effect on their projects and customer payments.

According to Justin Gitelman, content partnerships coordinator at, the company's most recent lien data shows that the number of mechanics liens that U.S. contractors filed in May and June fell slightly — 5,810 to 5,525 respectively — but the total value of liens increased from $469 million to $472 million. Preliminary July data indicates that the number of liens filed has also decreased, he said, as well as the total amount.
On August 28, 2020, an estimated 50,000 people will join together for a March on Washington on the 57th anniversary of the famous march that culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the Lincoln Memorial.

Those gathering this year will hear Reverend Al Sharpton deliver an address tentatively titled “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” tying this pivotal uprising to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, when one officer, Derek Chauvin, fatally knelt upon Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. While Floyd’s death has been the catalyst for the current social upheaval, it’s hardly the only example of police violence toward Black Americans; two months prior, Breonna Taylor was shot to death in her own home in Kentucky while she slept, and just this week, Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by police in Wisconsin, where he remains in critical condition.

Just a short ways down the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial, designers from the local office of SmithGroup—mostly people of color—are installing an intimate platform for grappling with racial injustice, called Society’s Cage. Measuring roughly 14 feet square, the temporary pavilion formed by a forest of vertical bars serves as an interpretive space as well as a contemplative one. Its exterior educates visitors on systemic racism through data on lynching, capital punishment, police brutality, and mass incarceration, while its interior offers a place for solemn reflection.

Architecture is a profession in which Black people have historically been underrepresented, but in this national moment of reckoning, Black architects have been making their voices heard in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. “This was a grassroots effort,” says Dayton Schroeter, who is a principal architect in SmithGroup’s DC office and one of the lead designers of the project, alongside Julian Arrington. “It was born of a diverse group of architects at SmithGroup who really wanted to do something in the aftermath of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders. We wanted to contribute to the discussions happening in our society, and within our profession, as we all reckon with the legacy of institutional racism and white supremacy.”

That legacy is reflected in the structure’s physical presence: starting from the Platonic ideal of a cube, vertical steel pipes—a reference to the metaphoric cage—are suspended from the ceiling. The walls form literal bar graphs of data, each conveying statistics on civilian death by police, capital punishment, mass incarceration, and lynching. These bars are carved away to produce an inhabitable void, with the undulating curvature of its top dictated by the convergence of data points. “The form and shape of the pavilion is a physical representation of racist institutional structures that have acted historically to compromise true equality and fairness in our society,” Schroeter explains. “The void is the symbolic representation of the systemic forces that devalue and compromise Black life.”

Yet it’s within that void—where visitors are immersed in an 8-minute, 46-second soundscape commissioned for the project—that, as co-designer Arrington puts it, one finds opportunity to reflect on not just the recent tragedies, but the more than 400 years of history preceding them. “These events are part of a continuum, and this design is really an expression of that,” he says. “It forces people to acknowledge that that these things exist, whether it's the murders or things of the past. And our effort is really about putting this out there and getting people to acknowledge it so that we can have that moment of reflection.”

The design’s overt references to spaces of confinement bring up another point of contention within the profession: In June, Michael Ford, who founded Hip Hop Architecture, resigned from SmithGroup after learning that the firm was involved in a master plan for a Wisconsin civic project that included extant holding facilities. The firm has since released a statement saying that it does not work with facilities for mass incarceration, and that it is committed to asking critical questions and getting uncomfortable. “If the conversation now isn’t uncomfortable, it isn’t going to be impactful. That’s what’s made racism so ingrained,” says Troy Thompson, a managing
The No. 2 U.S. auto maker asks 30,000 employees to clear out their desks to make way for workplace revamp

Thousands of office employees at Ford Motor Co. F +0.81% have come back to work in recent weeks to retrieve their things. All of their things.

With its white-collar employees working remotely at least until January because of the coronavirus pandemic, Ford is taking advantage of its empty buildings to reconfigure the workplace for a new era in which employees will have more options to do their jobs remotely, a company real-estate director said in an interview this week.

Most of the roughly 30,000 employees who work at or near Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., headquarters have returned to the office this summer to clean out their desks and workspaces, all while donning face masks.

Ford has emphasized to workers the collect-and-clear exercise that began in July has nothing to do with layoffs.

Rather, the No. 2 U.S. auto maker is trying to prep for a future in which many, if not most, employees won’t come into the office every day, said Jackie Shuk, a global director at Ford’s real-estate arm.

Many office workers are visiting the office for the first time since March, when Ford closed its corporate campuses because of pandemic-related lockdowns.

Some employees say they have worked in the same space for many years, requiring them to dig through stuffed filing cabinets and troves of personal items with little sense of when or where they will be back in the office.

“For a lot of people this has been surreal,” said a marketing employee at Ford’s headquarters. “I think most people like the idea of more flexibility. But we haven’t been told where we’re returning to.”

Ford’s Ms. Shuk said an on-site care team has been helping workers move boxes and load chairs and computer equipment into their cars. “It was definitely emotional for some,” she said. “The biggest thing we’ve heard is, ‘I miss my co-workers.’”

The reshuffling at Ford is among the more-assertive moves being taken by companies rethinking office life longer-term, as the pandemic has shown remote work to be more productive and feasible than initially thought.

With Covid-19 cases still rising in the U.S. this summer, many companies have pushed back their timelines for returning workers to offices.

That is allowing more time for businesses to not only hang plexiglass and space out desks, but devise long-range strategies for their office layouts and personnel schedules, said Laurie Ruettimann, a human-resources consultant who works with large companies.

“It affords them an opportunity to think about how work gets done and who does it and when,” Ms. Ruettimann said. “The organizations I work with haven’t made any decisions. They’re not ready to say what 2021 or 2022 is going to look like.”

Across town from Ford, General Motors Co. expects most employees to continue remote work through year-end, a spokesman said. GM as of now isn’t working on reconfiguring spaces for the long term, he said.

Ford, under Chief Executive Jim Hackett, was already moving to more flexible office setups before the pandemic hit. Mr. Hackett, a former office-furniture executive credited with helping to dispense with cubicles and modernize the workspace, had initiated plans to overhaul the company’s 1950s-era campus in Dearborn, Mich., last year.

The new campus design, led by Scandinavian architecture firm Snøhetta, calls for common workspaces and more freedom to choose where to work, including providing areas where employees can plop down with their laptops for the day.

The centerpiece of the plan is Ford’s sprawling engineering hub, just a few miles from its headquarters. Renovation work recently began on the facility, which opened in 1953 with a dedication from President Eisenhower. It now houses about 11,000 engineers and designers.

Ms. Shuk, of Ford’s real-estate arm, said the employee clear-out effort is separate from the campus renovation, which is a longer-term project. The pandemic has pulled ahead some elements of the overhaul, such as the need for more joint spaces where employees can meet and collaborate, and fewer individual work stations.

Specifics of the new office setup are still are being worked out, and it will likely be many months before employees are told their future work locations, she said.

“We are using this to accelerate some of those co-location eff
John Gollings
The Australian National University (ANU) engaged BVN to design six new structures for its Acton campus in an attempt to strengthen its connection to the city of Canberra. The result is a precinct that feels like part of the city – an urban ensemble in which there is coherence in built form, but where buildings have individual identities.

The role of the university has always been about more than scientific advancement and knowledge exchange. Universities contribute to local communities by acting as a forum for discussion and debate, by hosting public facilities and events, and by providing skilled labour for regional economies. Yet, university campuses have not always been attuned to this dynamic, and with the increasing globalization and commercialization of higher education, these connections between the university and its local context are diminishing. Or, as Thomas Bender notes in The university and the city , “The university has always claimed the world, not its host city, as its domain.”

The Acton campus of the Australian National University (ANU) forms a major part of Canberra, occupying around one-third of the city centre’s land mass. A 2018 review by Turnberry Consulting found that, in spite of its size, the campus lacks strong connections to the city, is often experienced as “dispersed and disconnected,” and lacks a distinct campus identity. In response, a new campus masterplan was developed in 2019 by Arup, informed by a desire to strengthen the relationship between city and campus. BVN’s Kambri precinct, at the centre of the campus, predates this masterplan, but the project’s realization expresses many of the masterplan’s intentions in built form. Kambri is the first in a series of planned hubs that will form the campus’s structured public realm.

As part of a short design competition, BVN captured its intent for the revitalization of Union Court, as it was then known, through a series of visualizations. Often, a new campus precinct with multiple buildings is designed with a uniform architecture, a common material palette and language, or as a series of competing icons. BVN’s approach was to create something more organic: a precinct that felt like part of the city, an urban ensemble in which there was coherence in built form, but where buildings had individual identities. This approach clearly worked. Expecting to design one or two buildings, BVN was instead awarded a contract for all six.

The Kambri precinct accommodates a wide range of different programs, typologies and activities. To the north sits the Cultural Centre, housing large-scale flexible performance spaces, a cinema, a drama theatre and the Ambush Gallery. Completing the urban block, and partially projecting above the gallery entrance, are two linear wings of the Fenner Hall student accommodation, clad in textured brick and concrete, with shared kitchens and terraces above grade. At the centre of the precinct sits the Marie Reay Teaching Centre, an articulated box of formal and informal teaching spaces, with an expressed timber structure and glass facade. To its east is the Di Riddell Student Centre. This consolidates student services in a sleek white block, with a delicate steel colonnade defining retail spaces at the ground level. To the west sits the curving Health and Wellbeing Centre, its shape mirroring the bend in Sullivans Creek beyond it. A pool and gym building is tucked behind the health centre at the southernmost point of the precinct, housed in a sleek box of bronze aluminium cladding and flush glazing. Tying all this together is landscaping by Lahznimmo Architects and Aspect Studios, including a gently undulating gathering space, a tree-lined promenade and terraced steps to Sullivans Creek.

Such diversity of form, program and material could easily create disharmony. But the greatest success of Kambri is its careful architectural balance between coherence and variety. While each building has its own presence, subtle moves seek to tie the precinct together. In section, the public realm at ground level is supplemented by common terraces across level one, typically hosting shared student facilities. This provides activity above grade and fosters a dialogue between ground and upper levels. Porosity and connectivity are deftly handled. Cuts through the buildings – most notably a tall, gently curved slot where Fenner Hall meets the Cultural Centre – ensure ease of movement around the precinct, while a new bridge seamlessly connects the J. B. Chifley Library, completed in 1968, to the public realm, making the library feel like part of the cluster.

The precinct was gifted its name by representatives of the Little Gudgenby River Tribal Council, the Buru Ngunawal Aboriginal Corporation, the King Brown Trib
ArchitectureAU Editorial
Monash University has appointed Mel Dodd as its new head of architecture.

Originally from Australia, Dodd has led the school of architecture at London’s Central Saint Martin’s since 2013 and is currently Associate Dean of Knowledge Exchange. In her time at the school she established the Master of Architecture and MA Cities programs and created an educational environment that “allowed for constant engagement with the ‘real world’ of external projects and professional networks, and an ethical engagement in societal challenges.”

At Monash, Dodd will be tasked with aligning the department of architecture with the university’s research pillars.

“I am committed to transformative architectural education and research, embedded in urban contexts,” she said, “and I know that my ambitions to widen participation with broader audiences, civil society, government and industry is in strong alignment and synergy with the department’s own mission. Given the unprecedented challenges facing society, a more radical engagement and interaction with cities, their systems and people, is now a compelling necessity.”

Shane Murray, dean of Monash Art, Design and Architecture, said, “We could not have made a better appointment. Mel is in the unique position of having led architecture schools in both Australia, at RMIT, and the UK at Central St Martin’s. She has a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing architecture in both locations that will drive architecture at Monash to prepare students for the changing realities of practice.”

Dodd will join Monash Art, Design and Architecture in January 2021, taking over the role from Naomi Stead, who will conclude her three-year term at the end of 2020.

“Naomi is a natural leader and I’m sure she will maintain her interest in the department and faculty as she returns to her role as research professor, and projects including her recent ARC Linkage on the work-related wellbeing of architects and architecture students,” Murray said.
Kristoffer Paulsen
Motif, texture and concrete acrobatics unite in this sculptural new home, befitting its majestic escarpment setting on the precipice of Toowoomba’s Great Dividing Range.

A skilled architect and builder, Jesse Bennett established Jesse Bennett Studio with his partner Anne-Marie Campagnolo, an accomplished interior designer, in 2010. Their first project, Planchonella House in Cairns, proved their talent when it was awarded the Australian Institute of Architects’ Robin Boyd Award, as well as the Houses Award for Australian House of the Year, in 2015. The project became a fascination for publishers, featuring in print across Africa, Europe, Asia and America. A review in Houses 104 piqued the interest of another Queensland-based family, prompting them to engage the studio to transform their own historic site in Toowoomba. Known as Tjuringa House, it was to be Jesse and Anne-Marie’s most ambitious project to date.

The project was named by the clients, who suggested the site was akin to an Indigenous Tjuringa, or artefact, carved with motifs and patterns communicating “mythological dreaming, stories of man and great mythic beings.” From the outset, there were ambitions for the site to serve a public function, welcoming garden tours into the generous grounds and emerging sculpture park. Serendipitously, the architecture has evolved into something of a sculpture itself, best experienced from vantage points dotted around the gardens.

The site is significant for both its size and its position on the precipice of Toowoomba’s Great Dividing Range escarpment. The original two-storey homestead, constructed in 1954 in a style reminiscent of the English Arts and Crafts movement, was something of a recognizable local landmark. Jesse’s initial design sought to preserve the home’s masonry envelope, radically refurbish the interior and introduce a concrete superstructure to sit over existing walls to awaken new connections to landscape and sunlight. But when the team discovered that the existing brick walls could not withstand the described interventions, a radical redesign ensued. They resolved to preserve the building’s original perimeter by reinstating its form with new masonry walls and to salvage and re-use the terracotta roof tiles in appreciation of the building’s history and the weathered patina of its original materials.

With the concrete superstructure remaining a crucial element of the scheme, it transitioned from being an overlay component to becoming the first structure to emerge from the ground. With the building expressed as two distinct elements – masonry shell and concrete roof – suddenly, the concrete had become the ruin and the new masonry walls the contemporary home taking up shelter within it. The concrete roof grounds the building in the landscape, shielding it from both westerly winds and prying eyes from the street above. Like a forest canopy, it establishes an overarching shelter while asserting the horizontality of the garden terrace and horizon.

The architecture is a joyous collision of material, craft and geometry. At the northern corner of the house, closest to the approach, an extraordinary junction resolves an intriguing crucifix form. Slender brick arches support a two-storey, L-shaped concrete column that extends beyond the top of the slab to emerge like a pair of inverted obelisks etched out by ziggurat cutaways. It is impossible not to draw comparisons to Carlo Scarpa’s Brion-Vega Cemetery, a building that explores motifs rigorously, overlaying and repeating simple geometries with an unapologetic relentlessness. Here, Jesse Bennett Studio demonstrates a similar obsession with motif, texture and concrete acrobatics.

When pressed to describe the genesis of such architectural motifs, Jesse suggests they emerged almost involuntarily. “[They are] something that recurs organically through our design process,” he muses. What they do reveal is a masterful understanding of making and material. The repeated ziggurat motifs forming edges and tops to concrete elements stand as small reminders that these details were formed with care, by human hands. With such gestures, the architect finds a way to connect this artefact of monumental, civic scale with the palm of a human hand.

Clay masonry and tile also appear in rather gravity-defying ways. The latter forms the feathered walls enveloping the main bedroom suite, enriched by a visual tapestry of glazing and lichen. Masonry acts as container, but also becomes the crucial material defining landscape edges and raised planter beds. Along the building’s ea
From a classic IKEA number to a wood table from Sossego, there’s a hardworking desk to suit every style and budget.

In the new normal, setting up a home office is more important than ever. And while it may sound like a no-brainer, the key element of any comfortable and productive workspace is a desk. Settling on the right one, however, is no easy task. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up 12 picks—in a range of shapes and finishes—to make your search a little less daunting. Whether you’re looking to fill a studio corner or outfit a spacious study, the desks below are sure to elevate your live/work situation.

Blu Dot Stash Desk
Radius edges and wood couple in the elemental Stash Desk by Blu Dot. The handy pencil drawer keeps it tidy and can be assembled to either the left or right side. Available in select finishes.

Sossego Amsterdam Table
The Netherlands city steeped in rich architectural history is famous for the luxurious gabled brick buildings lining her crisscrossing canals.

Magis Tavolo XZ3 Rectangular Table
Modern glam with geometric brilliance. This Magis Tavolo XZ3 Rectangular Table will be a spotlight stealer in any decor. It is designed with a rectangular tabletop made from MDF with polymer cover for strength and durability.

A clean and simple look that fits just about anywhere. You can combine it with other desks or drawer units in the MICKE series to extend your work space.

Hartô Hyppolite Desk, Oak
Finnish Design Shop
SALE $575
Hartô's Hyppolite is a mid-century inspired but still modern secretary desk designed by Florence Watine. An attractive combination of oak veneered top and metal legs, Hyppolite's sleek design doesn't take much space in the room but still gives you plenty of space for work.

Floyd Table/Desk
Enduring Design Modern, modular, and thoughtfully designed for how you live today - and tomorrow. 30-Day Returns We think you'll love your Floyd product, but just in case, we gladly accept returns within 30 days of delivery. 10-Year Warranty We believe in furniture for keeping.

Moooi Container Table
Just try to contain your excitement. The Moooi Container Table Round features a durable four foot round top mounted onto a flared foot. This foot is hollow, designed by Marcel Wanders to be filled with sand or water as needed for added stability.

Queer Eye Copley Writing Desk
Just because we gotta work, doesn’t mean we can’t do it from the comfort of our own home! With the gorgeous Queer Eye Copley Writing Desk, you can earn that money in your fab home office! With the open shelving and drawer, you can keep your extra office supplies and papers off of your workspace.

Magis Déjà-Vu Oval Table
Lightweight table constructed using simple materials. Elegantly crafted, the Magis Deja-vu Oval Table is a splendid addition to your dining ensemble. Made in collaboration with designer Naoto Fukasawa it features a simple oval top complemented by angled legs.