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Trent Bell
American firm Supernormal has created a nursery and preschool in the Boston area that features sculptural volumes wrapped in vibrant wallpaper and open play areas illuminated by speckled daylight.

Opened in 2019, the SolBe Learning Center is a nursery and preschool for children aged six months to five years. The 550-square-metre facility is located in a strip mall in Chestnut Hill, a community in the Boston area.

Supernormal – a multidisciplinary firm based in the nearby town of Somerville – sought to create a new type of daycare and learning environment. Working in collaboration with SolBe's founders, the architects conceived a model that pairs each classroom, called a Dwelling, with an open space, called a Yard.

"The SolBe Learning Center questions the traditional definition of the classroom, commonly interpreted from early education code as a room bounded by four walls with an area of 35 square feet of space per child," the studio said in a description.

"Instead, the classroom is re-imagined as distinct zones of activity with specific spatial characteristics that better match the quality and level of activity within them."

For the classrooms, the team created sculptural volumes wrapped in colourful, patterned wallpaper. The interiors are fitted with oak flooring, creamy walls and wooden decor. Up above, a billowing ceiling was constructed using light-gauge metal framing with an acoustical plaster finish.

"The ceiling geometry allows for, and amplifies the effect of, indirect light in the dwellings," firm principal Elizabeth Bowie Christoforetti told Dezeen.

"The soft classroom lighting and dynamic ceiling contribute to a sense of calm and wonder in the learning spaces."

Acting as "islands" within an open-floor plan, the Dwellings provide space for focused, quiet learning. In contrast, the Yards are meant for lively play, dining and group activities.

"This oscillation between focused learning and free-play territory reflects the innovative curriculum, creating space that is sensitive to the needs of children as they transition through growth stages and times of the day," the studio said.

In the open areas, activities take place under a 4.5-metre-high (15-foot-high) ceiling punctured with skylights and covered with a screen made of white, acoustic baffles. Dappled, natural light moves across the interior, enabling kids to feel and observe how light and weather change throughout the day.

When school is not in session, the facility acts a community centre, offering opportunities for weekend play, music lessons and continuing education courses for adults.

"The space is an embodiment of SolBe's distinct, open and inclusive approach to early childhood education and life in community," the studio said.

"The space and the concept that drove it hold an enormous amount of potential to push at the edges of the existing status quo toward a redefinition of our experience of young family life in America, in whatever traditional or untraditional form it exists."

The SolBe Learning Center is longlisted for the Dezeen Awards 2019.

Other innovative schools and daycare facilities within the US include Big and Tiny in the Los Angeles area, which has a co-working space for parents and a wooden play area for kids, and WeWork's first school in New York City, which features lily-pad-shaped cushions and sculptural wooden enclosures.
Sylvie Rosokoff / Sylvie the Camera
The founder of Madame Architect speaks with RECORD about the value of mentorship.

Julia Gamolina, who works in business development for FXCollaborative, founded the website Madame Architect in May 2018, after having published interviews with women in the profession on SubteXXt, the digital journal of gender-equity organization ArchiteXX, beginning in 2015. Since then, she has interviewed some 150 women in the profession, with more than 50,000 unique visitors to the site. The 28-year-old graduate of Cornell’s architecture program spoke with RECORD about her goals for Madame Architect and the value of mentorship in work and life.

You were born in Russia, immigrated to Canada at age 8, then moved to the U.S. when you were 14. How has mentorship—and specifically working with and looking up to other women—played a role in your life and career?

It’s been huge. When we immigrated, my mom told me, “I will offer you the guidance that I can, but I’m also new here—there are some things that I won’t know.” So as a young kid, then throughout high school and college, I felt very comfortable asking my teachers for advice. I’ve always had different mother figures in my life, and advisors in my professional world, and I think immigration is really what triggered it.

So was Madame Architect a natural extension of seeking out guidance?

Yes. I found that, after graduation, that built-in system of mentorship no longer exists. I started to look for my own advisors. Writing about them wasn’t originally part of the plan at all, but once I found women who were so generous and energizing to me, I thought, I have to share this. I pitched ArchiteXX, and it published my first Q&A, with Vivian Lee, a principal at Richard Meier & Partners.

How do you identify your interviewees?

One of the biggest goals of Madame Architect is variety—the full gamut of age, focus, background, location, everything—but it started with women who had leadership roles at firms, purely for guidance on how to get there. After the first few, I thought, I’m talking to women at the peaks of their careers; what is it like to speak to someone in the trenches?

What common themes have emerged?

People talk about being open and nimble, and saying yes when unexpected opportunities arise. While I was working on my thesis and about to start looking for jobs, I watched all these commencement speeches by people like Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey, who send the message to find what you want to do and just do it. I had started my career with that mentality, and it was extremely frustrating, because things took longer or didn’t work out as I expected. I thought I was doing something wrong. But having interviewed more than a hundred women now, no one has ever said, “Set your eyes on the prize and go for it.” And, in fact, everyone has said, “Be open, you don’t know what’s coming, but surprises are good, and you’ll learn a lot by trying different things.”

What has surprised you?

Almost every single woman I have talked to who has her own firm founded it when she had her first baby. That’s really mind-blowing to me. Seeing who my followers are has also been surprising. A lot are younger women and new mothers, but I also have men writing to me all the time. I didn’t think I would hear from men at all when I started, and while it’s still more women, it’s more balanced than I expected.

What misconceptions do you think people have about women working in architecture?

So many women are so tired of being asked what it’s like to be a woman in the field. They deal with the same challenges that come with different stages of life, for everyone, in every field. They no longer want to be thought of as “women architects”—they just want to be thought of as architects. That has probably been the most consistent feedback from the interviews.

You publish a lot of content—around 10 stories each month. Do you see this becoming a fulltime job?

I actually really like having my feet in practice. I don’t design at the moment, but I like being on the ground in the collaborative environment of a firm. So for now, at least, it’s good for me to do both. But monetizing something like this, having a business plan and all that—oh my God [laughs] . . . Not my skill set.
Paul Vu
Museum exhibitions are often associated with the one-directional and the untouchable. Not at the brand-new Cayton Children’s Museum, located on the third floor of the open-air urban centre Santa Monica Place; the popular spot is mainly known for its retail and hospitality offerings.

At nearly 20,000 sq-m, the OfficeUntitled-designed facility features a series of exhibitions that take place in five different wings, also called neighbourhoods. Beyond the Mr. Rogers reference, the idea is to create interactive exhibitions that allow children aged 0-10 to choose their own learning and discovery adventures. Each themed exhibition is dedicated to exploring core universal values, such as kindness, compassion, respect and hospitality.

The Reach For exhibition – where a web of ropes is suspended from the ceiling – helps children discover their abilities of achievement. Launch Your allows 0-to-2-year-olds to build coordination and confidence by interacting with various types of topography. Let’s Help and Together We prompt them to create a community of collaborative play, as well as encouraging communication and support. And then, the aptly titled Reflect On inspires introspection, reflection and connection.

All in all, it's a great example of how children’s museums should be designed: conceived for playfulness, with dedicated spaces that empower learning abilities, but never dumbed down. Indeed: Fred Rogers would have been proud to live in such neighbourhoods.
A biweekly tour of the ever-expanding cartographic landscape.

In 2014, researchers from the University of Washington announced that pairing Google StreetView with a cluster of “smart” surveillance cameras allowed them to create “a self-organized and scalable multiple-camera tracking system that tracks humans across the cameras.”

In so many words, they showed that it was possible to build a dynamic, near real-time visualization of pedestrians and traffic flows, projected onto a 360-degree map of the world. A bit of machine-learning software helped erase any seams. This was an early proof of concept in an urban setting of a technological model now known as a “digital twin.”

“Digital twin” is a creepy-sounding phrase, conjuring visions of pixelated doppelgangers haunting your every step. It doesn’t necessarily describe an all-out surveillance state, though: In some ways, this is an extension of the 3-D computer models that architects and engineers use to help plan a building, or maneuver the inner workings of a car engine before they hit the factory.

But the big difference with what the UW researchers were doing is that they were feeding real-time, real-world data into the digital platform, enabling an exact virtual simulacrum of physical streets. What’s more, AI enabled the virtual world to respond to the projected movements in a way that made it seem more real. This technology has taken off in the years since: IBM, Microsoft, HERE Maps, and Descartes Labs are all working toward building “digital twin” technologies for different uses, including for city planning.

For local governments, the benefits could be big. Already, a number Indian cities have adopted “digital twin” software to help manage water and energy infrastructure. In the U.K., researchers at Newcastle University built a digital twin of their city to help it better respond to flooding.

And the bylaws of the Open Mobility Foundation, a global nonprofit recently established to help cities govern the future of mobility data, state that a “digital twin” is the “only way” for cities to get control over the scooters, ride-hailing cars, and other conveyances clogging their streets. It describes how a digital replica of city streets could quickly model how, say, switching traffic signals to prioritize a speeding ambulance would affect other vehicle flows and what transportation officials would need to adjust in order to manage them.

On the other hand, the privacy implications of such a paradigm are pretty big. Who says a city should have that much oversight into the individual movements of every vehicle on the road? How much personally identifiable information would that require a city to absorb and own, and for how long? Players in the world of transportation technology are asking these questions now, as the public officials who head up the Open Mobility Foundation convene for their first board meeting next week. We’ll see what they have to say. (And watch for my story with more about digital twins, later this week in CityLab.)
Architect Magazine
From 89 submissions, the jury picked eight entries that prove architects can be at the helm of innovation, technology, and craft.

Do we control technology or does technology control us? Never has that question seemed more apt than now. The use of computational design, digital manufacturing, and artificial intelligence, if mismanaged, can have frightening consequences, the implications of which society is just beginning to comprehend. But the jury for ARCHITECT’s 13th annual R+D Awards was determined to accentuate the positive side of these advancements, seeking the best examples that “melded technology, craft, and problem-solving,” says Craig Curtis, FAIA.

The eight winners selected by Curtis and fellow jurors James Garrett Jr., AIA, and Carrie Strickland, FAIA, prove that designers can remain solidly in the driver’s seat despite the frenetic pace of technological developments in the building industry and beyond. “Architects are anticipating the future, helping to shape it, and giving it form,” Garrett says. “Moving forward, we are not going to be left behind. We are going to be a part of the conversation.”


Craig Curtis, FAIA, is head of architecture and interior design at Katerra, where he helped launch the now 300-plus-person design division of the Menlo Park, Calif.–based technology company and oversees the development of its configurable, prefabricated building platforms. Previously, he was a senior design partner at the Miller Hull Partnership, in Seattle.

James Garrett Jr., AIA, is founding partner of 4RM+ULA, a full-service practice based in St. Paul, Minn., that focuses on transit design and transit-oriented development. A recipient of AIA’s 2019 Young Architects Award, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, a visual artist, a writer, and an advocate for increasing diversity in architecture.

Carrie Strickland, FAIA, is founding principal of Works Progress Architecture, in Portland, Ore., where she is an expert in the design of adaptive reuse and new construction projects and works predominantly in private development. She has also taught at Portland State University and the University of Oregon, and served on AIA Portland’s board of directors.
ZGF Architects LLP
ZGF is analyzing how employees use its Seattle office with computer-vision software

ZGF Architects LLP is testing a computer-vision system in house to see if the technology can help it design office space better. If the pilot goes well, the firm plans to offer the service to clients.

The Portland, Ore.-based architectural firm, which has done work for Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Stanford University, assesses how clients use office space through surveys and staff observations. It is turning to computer vision to collect more-granular details on how people move around and use amenities. The hope is that more accurate data will allow the firm to make informed decisions on how wide stairways should be or the size and number of conference rooms a client needs, for instance.

“Being able to quantify what needs to go into building—rather than roughing it or building something bigger than it needs to be—means we can be more precise about how we design things,” said Dane Stokes, who leads the five-person ZGF computational design team that’s managing the pilot at the company’s Seattle office.

The computer-vision system under testing currently consists of four cameras that feed footage into object-recognition software.

The company has been moving those cameras around hallways and 12 conference rooms in a 39,000-square-foot office spread across two floors and connected by two stairways. It is testing the optimal placement for counting people and assessing the system’s effectiveness in recognizing objects such as office chairs and cellphones.

ZGF’s computer-vision trial illustrates how businesses are discovering new uses for artificial intelligence.

Very few architectural firms tap computer vision to analyze how office space is used, said Stanislas Chaillou, an architect and data scientist at Oslo-based property-technology company Spacemaker. The move could give ZGF a competitive edge, particularly when bidding on remodeling projects, he added.

“And as the space is being analyzed and the client sees that there is value to remodel the space, then that firm will be the company they call,” Mr. Chaillou said.

Computer-vision systems use machine learning to identify images. ZGF is using open-source software programs OpenCV and YOLO, which recognize thousands of objects such as humans and electronic devices up to roughly 50 feet away from the camera. The data is then fed into a visualization program that creates a 3-D representation of the space, its objects and occupants and their movement.

ZGF is working on integrating data from the computer-vision system with information collected from workers, including their feedback on environmental factors such as lighting and acoustics and their satisfaction about the availability of amenities such as conference rooms. The feedback will give ZGF architects a more complete picture of how people utilize and feel about a space.

One challenge the company is working through is getting its employees to trust the system, Mr. Stokes said, given the public concerns about intelligent cameras and privacy. Mr. Stokes said the system doesn’t utilize facial recognition; it only identifies people as “humans.” It also doesn’t record video: the system analyzes footage in real time but doesn’t save the images it captures, only the related data. To help allay any concerns during the internal trial, Mr. Stokes said he gave employees a demonstration of the system’s capabilities.

Even with all those steps, he said, clients may be hesitant to opt in to the system. “Working with clients is going to be interesting,” he said. “We’re trying to answer questions with our own staff so that we can speak more confidently about deploying it in our client spaces.”

He added: “As we go through this quest to learn more about how our spaces work, we’ve learned the ethics of how we should track that data [and] how we can get a better data set without compromising people’s comfort about the technology. We don’t want to get all ‘Big Brother’ on people.”

This summer, ZGF plans to launch an external trial on an undisclosed university-affiliated research center it designed, which has about 80,000 square feet of labs, classrooms and collaboration spaces.
Civil + Structural Engineer
Data Center Powerhouse ScaleMatrix has a Message for the AEC Industry: Bring it On.

Foreseeing the time when AEC firms will face data management issues caused by the mainstream implementation of AI and machine learning, California-based ScaleMatrix says it will be ready.

Mark Ortenzi and Chris Orlando, the high-performing masterminds and co-founders of ScaleMatrix, have invented a hybrid air/liquid cooled cabinet built to house virtually any hardware needed for an organization’s computing needs. With built-in logic, the cabinets are efficient, high-density, closed-loop, and fully modular. And compared to the installation of a traditional data center, ScaleMatrix can reduce the deployment time by as much as 75 percent, a deployment that is measured in days, not months or even years. If this cabinet is the meteorite, the old data center systems are the dinosaurs.

The ScaleMatrix cabinet has the ability to scale from 1kW to 52kW of workload, and it can handle anything an AEC firm can produce, especially as the industry has yet to employ AI and other cognitive technologies on a meaningful scale. However, with AI technology expected to boom in the coming years, that will probably change as engineering firms follow the lead of more progressive segments of the economy.

In a nutshell, data growth leads to compute and density increases – more processors – which leads to more power outputs, and thus increased heat, which leads to heightened cooling requirements. In the old days, the raised floor, the wind tunnel, and the chilled room were sufficient. Ortenzi and Orlando know all about it, because it was in the data center industry where they cut their teeth and made their names. But even as they flourished in that industry, they also saw the need for disruption.

“I wanted to invent a better mousetrap,” Ortenzi said.

Or, as Orlando likes to say, “If you want a cold beer, you don’t put it into a cold room. You put it in the refrigerator.”

With important partnerships with leading companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NVIDIA – ScaleMatrix is a select partner in NVIDIA’s DGX-ready data center program – and now with data centers in San Diego, Seattle, Houston, Charlotte, and Jacksonville, ScaleMatrix upped the ante with the recent acquisition of Instant Data Centers, a deal that adds ruggedized, micro-data centers that can function on the edge – near the action and in remote locations, like a mine.

Even though the technology behind what ScaleMatrix does is perhaps dizzying, the philosophy is quite simple.

“Everything we do in this business is power and cooling,” Ortenzi said. “Next to labor, power is the biggest expense. It takes so many amps to cool so many amps. It takes so many watts to cool so many watts.”

The cabinets have built-in logic that responds to usage requirements, making the variable system “one big, breathing animal that modulates based on requirements,” Ortenzi said. The ScaleMatrix design includes full cooling support, redundant power supply, fire suppression, and integrated network support. When one cabinet gets filled up, just add another one. While ScaleMatrix at first offered cloud and colocation services, it has since added another distinct business line, the DDC™ cabinet for companies that want them for their own data centers.

While the reaction from the market has certainly been favorable – ScaleMatrix had 2018 combined sales of about $20 million and employs 52 people – it wasn’t necessarily instant and overwhelming.

“That’s a great novelty, but who needs that?” Ortenzi said, referring to the initial reaction he and Orlando got when they introduced a system that could handle such a heavy workload.

But all that changed about two years ago, when AI and machine learning came in from the fringe and entered the mainstream. Seemingly overnight, companies were dealing with more data than ever, and ScaleMatrix started fielding calls from all across the country, and even the world.

“All of a sudden, two years ago, all hell breaks loose and no one knew what to do,” Ortenzi said. “We’ve set ourselves up to be in a position to help people. Where else are they going to go?”
DamienGeso/iStock, David von Diemar/Unsplash]
In a broad new set of sustainability commitments, the company wants to use its tech to develop tools to monitor and find insights in environmental data.

In 2012, before declaring your company “carbon neutral” was de rigueur, Microsoft committed to that standard across its operations. Since then, Microsoft has continued to take steps toward cleaning up its own act, purchasing enough green power to equal its electricity consumption, investing in reforestation projects, and setting the target of reducing its emissions 75% by 2030.

Even though Microsoft has worked diligently to advance sustainable practices, its approach, says Lucas Joppa, the company’s chief environmental officer, has remained fairly internal. “We’ve been so focused on reducing the environmental footprint of our own operations–that was really the traditional focus,” Joppa says. Now, the company feels that it’s time to expand its its approach. Through a new set of sustainability commitments, Microsoft wants to turn its sustainability efforts outward, through making its artificial intelligence and tech tools more widely available for use in environmental research, and through new research and advocacy efforts in the environmental field.

“The reason we’re doing this is almost perfectly correlated with impatience,” Joppa says. “The reality shows that no matter how successful we are, sustainability actions inside of our own four walls are entirely insufficient for moving the world toward an environmentally sustainable future.” The same logic applies across the corporate world: No matter how much an individual company works to achieve personal sustainability goals, it’s not going to create the kind of large-scale change we need to combat climate change.

Microsoft’s plan is to turn what it does well–technology and AI–outward to support climate action. It will aggregate and host environmental data sets on its cloud platform, Azure, and make them publicly available (it’s also using AI to make its Azure data centers run more efficiently). Those data sets, according to Microsoft, are too large for researchers to use without advanced cloud computing, and hosting them on Azure should ease that issue.

The company will also scale up the work it does with other nonprofits and companies tackling environmental issues through a data lens. Microsoft has already worked in concert with the water management company Ecolab to develop a tool to assess and monetize a company’s water usage, and how much they would save–both in financial and environmental terms–by driving down their consumption and waste. They’ll also work with The Yield, a company that uses sensors to assess weather and conditions for farmers, to improve the operations of their tools and equip them with AI that will help them predict weather patterns and soil conditions in advance. And they’re equipping SilviaTerra, a startup that uses AI to monitor global forest populations, with the tools it needs to store and analyze vast amounts of data.

Alongside these partnerships, Microsoft is also working to prove that these types of data-driven projects can deliver enormous benefits to both the environment and the economy. Through research conducted with PwC, Microsoft looked at how AI could be applied across four sectors with implications for the planet: agriculture, water, energy, and transportation. “Even just for a few different sectors, and a few different levers in those sectors, a rapid adoption of AI-based technology has the potential to not only make significant gains for the environment, but also for the GDP overall,” Joppa says. Microsoft found that advancing AI usage across those four sectors could boost global GDP by as much as 4.4% by 2030, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 4% in the same time period. “We need to get past the idea that acting on climate will slow economic growth,” Joppa says.
John Folan
A recent national gathering of architecture educators in Pittsburgh highlighted the myriad ways architecture schools can help their nearby underserved communities.

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)—an organization of over 200 educational institutions dedicated to advancing architecture pedagogy—recently held its 107th annual meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The gathering was broad and diverse, with a stacked lineup of panels and workshops, but one particular question stood out within the many themes of its workshops on housing: How can schools help students engage with local communities? The conference’s location in Pittsburgh—a city with many struggling neighborhoods—provided a unique depth to the discussions.

As many speakers and panelists described, the challenge of connecting architecture students to underserved communities is hugely important. For example, Dr. Theodore Landsmark, a distinguished professor of public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern University, said in one panel, “It strikes me as not just negligent but almost criminal that the architectural community … and our educational institutions, many of which are in or adjacent to Opportunity Zones in our cities, have not been actively engaged in helping shape—particularly the community engagement aspects—how billions of dollars are about to be spent in our cities.”

Pittsburgh, though, has a long history of acting in this arena. In the 1960s, Carnegie Mellon urban design professor David Lewis founded the pioneering Urban Lab, an early example of university-led participatory design that still operates in the city today. With many educators and organizers at the conference hailing from Buffalo and Detroit, the fate of Rust Belt cities emerged as a natural focus. Below are some of the key takeaways from the event’s many panels, lectures, and workshops.

Forge Meaningful Partnerships with Other Disciplines

John Folan, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture, directs the Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS), a collaborative initiative of professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and allied professionals who work with local residents and organizations to combat the cycle of decline plaguing many Pittsburgh neighborhoods. UDBS also challenges the notion that public interest design means sacrificing design quality; the studio has been awarded several local and state AIA design commends, including AIA Pennsylvania’s 2018 State of Pennsylvania Impact Design Practice award as well as the Bronze Award in Impact Design for the REACH Mobile Computer Literacy Training Lab.

Find Ways to Transmit the Lessons You Learn

While the UDBS has been operating in Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods for several years, Stefan Gruber takes a more globally-oriented approach in the Master of Urban Design program at Carnegie Mellon University. Acknowledging that the majority of his students are from abroad, and that many ultimately return to their home countries to practice, Gruber wonders what it means “to transfer design methodologies and community design tools from Pittsburgh to radically different contexts? … How can we tap into the self-organizing capacity of cities?” Through extensive global research, Gruber assembled An Atlas of Commoning: Places of Collective Production, a traveling exhibition that showcases various grassroots design case studies. The show will travel internationally for the next ten years. In Pittsburgh, Gruber’s students draw from the Atlas to to complete their own urban design thesis projects, many of which similarly challenge notions of ownership, production, and collective governance. “The implications are far-reaching for society but also important for us to rethink our agency as designers,” he says.
Today at Nvidia GTC 2019, the company unveiled a stunning image creator. Using generative adversarial networks, users of the software are with just a few clicks able to sketch images that are nearly photorealistic. The software will instantly turn a couple of lines into a gorgeous mountaintop sunset. This is MS Paint for the AI age.

Called GauGAN, the software is just a demonstration of what’s possible with Nvidia’s neural network platforms. It’s designed to compile an image how a human would paint, with the goal being to take a sketch and turn it into a photorealistic photo in seconds. In an early demo, it seems to work as advertised.

GauGAN has three tools: a paint bucket, pen and pencil. At the bottom of the screen is a series of objects. Select the cloud object and draw a line with the pencil, and the software will produce a wisp of photorealistic clouds. But these are not image stamps. GauGAN produces results unique to the input. Draw a circle and fill it with the paint bucket and the software will make puffy summer clouds.

Users can use the input tools to draw the shape of a tree and it will produce a tree. Draw a straight line and it will produce a bare trunk. Draw a bulb at the top and the software will fill it in with leaves producing a full tree.

GauGAN is also multimodal. If two users create the same sketch with the same settings, random numbers built into the project ensure that software creates different results.

In order to have real-time results, GauGAN has to run on a Tensor computing platform. Nvidia demonstrated this software on an RDX Titan GPU platform, which allowed it to produce results in real time. The operator of the demo was able to draw a line and the software instantly produced results. However, Bryan Catanzaro, VP of Applied Deep Learning Research, stated that with some modifications, GauGAN can run on nearly any platform, including CPUs, though the results might take a few seconds to display.

In the demo, the boundaries between objects are not perfect and the team behind the project states it will improve. There is a slight line where two objects touch. Nvidia calls the results photorealistic, but under scrutiny, it doesn’t stand up. Neural networks currently have an issue on objects it was trained on and what the neural network is trained to do. This project hopes to decrease that gap.

Nvidia turned to 1 million images on Flickr to train the neural network. Most came from Flickr’s Creative Commons, and Catanzaro said the company only uses images with permission. The company says this program can synthesize hundreds of thousands of objects and their relation to other objects in the real world. In GauGAN, change the season and the leaves will disappear from the branches. Or if there’s a pond in front of a tree, the tree will be reflected in the water.

Nvidia will release the white paper today. Catanzaro noted that it was previously accepted to CVPR 2019.

Catanzaro hopes this software will be available on Nvidia’s new AI Playground, but says there is a bit of work the company needs to do in order to make that happen. He sees tools like this being used in video games to create more immersive environments, but notes Nvidia does not directly build software to do so.
Grace O'Conner
Exploring what architecture can do starts with understanding what's been done before.

Danielle Willkens, Assoc. AIA, is an assistant professor of architecture at Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design, and Construction who combines the old and the new in her teachings. As the recent winner of an AIAS/ACSA New Faculty Teaching Award, she’s finding that her unique blend of technology and history resonates well with today’s students.

I am very much a product of the amazing mentors I had in school, from my undergraduate studies through graduate school. I saw how they used academia as a platform for outreach, and thought it was a phenomenal way to make an impact. Not only are you shaping young minds, but you’re instilling new ideas as to what architecture can do, beyond just bricks and mortar.

I’m a self-described techie who also loves sitting in an archive and researching, and I try to marry both sides in my teaching style. It can be a struggle to prepare students for practice in a digital age while also helping them grasp traditional techniques and become more aware of their surroundings. Nothing has been taken off the plate for architectural education; we’re only adding to it. Our goal is to make a design education feel more like a network, where everything interrelates and comes together in numerous ways. There’s no perfect method for practice or education; we want to give our students room to develop their own voices and take advantage of the tools at their fingertips.

When it comes to diversifying architecture, it’s great to see our schools at roughly 50 percent female—but there is still that major drop-off when it comes to licensure. I’m fortunate to be part of a great movement working to amplify the voices of female designers and trying to highlight those who have been overlooked in the past. There are still stories left to be told and interesting research to be done, and we’re benefiting from being in a digital age where archives are digitized and the past is made available in ways never seen before. It opens a very interesting path for students, who are helping to uncover histories while building their own. — As told to Steve Cimino
Jakob Gate
Scandinavian design studio Native Narrative is raising the bar for after-school facilities in the rural Philippines with their recent completion of the Children’s Learning Center in the Island of Leyte’s Village Mas-in. The facility primarily serves as a child-friendly after-school space during weekdays and weekends, however, it has also been engineered to double as an emergency shelter in the event of a natural disaster. Created in close collaboration with local NGOs and the local government, the prototype project was constructed from locally available materials and local, relatively unskilled labor.

The Children’s Learning Center and emergency shelter was created in response to the newly approved Children’s Emergency Relief Protection Act in the Philippines, a law that calls for local and national agencies to establish child-friendly spaces for the improved protection and development of children. Created to serve ages 4 to 17, the 63-square-meter Village Mas-in facility offers a space to play, study and gather with the community. The building includes a library unit, study spaces, a reading area, two bathrooms and a performance area. The facility is one of four Native Narrative-designed after-school facilities built in 2018; five more site-specific buildings will be constructed in 2019.

“It has been important for us to create something that made sense in the local context both practically and in terms of character,” explains Jakob Gate, architect at Native Narrative, of the firm’s choice to use locally sourced materials and local labor. “The building is a collection of borrowed components from the predominant architectural language in the locality, although does not resemble any one particular building. The minimal colour pallet is reducing the environment to a backdrop where children, books and toys are standing out.” Local carpenters made all the furniture of plywood, while local weavers wove the seat covers from Pandan grass.

Due to the Philippines’ location on the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire,’ the country is highly susceptible to natural disasters including typhoons, earthquakes and floods. To fortify the emergency shelter against these events, the architects designed a reinforced-concrete structure with a symmetrical column layout, hollow block walls and a lightweight metal roof. The building is also raised to protect against flooding.

Lauren Nassef
It's not a matter of if the architecture profession will feel the impacts of artificial intelligence—it's a matter of when.

“Self-driving cars can identify objects as they drive,” a video from the company Smartvid.io proclaims. “What if we could bring this ability to the industrial world?” The Cambridge, Mass.–based outfit has developed technology to do just that: It offers software that analyzes huge amounts of data—in the form of photos and videos from construction sites—to identify safety risks that might not be evident to a human observer. It tags, for example, workers who are missing hard hats and types of ladders considered risky, promising to help “reinforce safety culture.”

“The risks might not be obvious right away, but when you look at the total data, it emerges,” says Imdat As, an expert in the rise of artificial intelligence in the field of architecture and founder of Arcbazar, a competition platform for architectural design projects. As notes that this type of artificial intelligence used by Smartvid.io—called deep learning—is an early application of what we’ll see from AI in architecture more broadly, such as computer tools that will offer alternative design solutions.

Many architects are excited about these opportunities, and some large firms are exploring the latest technology. But what about smaller firms? According to the AIA's 2018 Firm Survey Report, 75.8 percent of firms have one to nine employees. How will these smaller outfits, with smaller budgets, confront the rise of AI? Though smaller firms may face resource challenges, as artificial intelligence tools become more widespread and less expensive, they perhaps stand to benefit the most.

From Automation to Artificial Intelligence

Already, architects are increasingly using technology to automate the quantifiable aspects of architecture, such as apps that give a designer almost instant access to zoning rules or building codes in a certain area. But this isn’t AI, explains As, noting that the way we think about AI today stems from work that began accelerating in 2011 because of better and cheaper computers, as well as increasing amounts of available data. “Ninety percent of all data available in the world has been produced in the last two years,” he says.

Artificial intelligence thus doesn’t merely automate a task by serving as an efficient clearinghouse of data; rather, it analyzes data and generates new ideas or solutions, similar to how a human mind would approach a problem. Hence, there is a need for more and better data from which machines can learn.

While most of the currently popular AI applications involve the processing of text, audio, and images—such as what self-driving cars and Smartvid.io’s construction software does—As says new forms of AI tools that can learn from different data sources, such as drawings, are on their way for architects. (Other forms of AI research that are not datadriven, such as evolutionary algorithms, also might someday provide alternative solutions to architectural issues.)

In the future, for instance, architects will likely be able to tell a program that they want a house for a family with two children and a dog that must also be handicapped-accessible. Though the system can theoretically generate millions of examples, it will narrow them down to the dozens that it “thinks” are best, and the designer can further develop one or more of those.
Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, announced a new association program aimed at recruiting a more diverse pool of workers into the construction industry through vocational training that targets women and minority high school students in New York City and around the U.S., Spectrum News NY1 reported.

Sandherr, The New York Daily News reported, told those gathered on the steps of New York City Hall in Manhattan that the makeup of the construction industry is primarily white and male but should be more aligned with that of the rest of the American workforce. "If the construction industry cannot find an effective way to recruit, hire and develop a more diverse workforce," Sandherr said, "we won’t be able to keep pace with demand."

Despite the AGC’s announcement that it would help pay for high school career and technical training, critics said the push could keep poor and minority students from pursuing a four-year degree and that such a program would be deficient if it does not include information on how to build a business in the trades as well. In addition, Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute, told the Daily News that the emphasis should be on programs that encourage, or even require, contractors to partner with minority- and women-owned businesses, not just hire them as subcontractors.

All educational opportunities, according to the New York State chapter of the AGC, can create a path to the construction industry. Craft and technology training can lead to a career in the trades, whereas training via a community college or technical institution can see students eventually in such positions as foreman, safety director, estimator, project manager and executive management or ownership. Four-year degree programs for construction managers, architects and engineers offer entryways into the industry as well.

To keep up with the projected volume of work in the U.S. — a $600 billion annual increase, according to AGC NYS — craft workers are going to be the ones in short supply, however, and the industry will need an estimated 240,000 new trade professionals each year to keep pace.

Despite previous initiatives to bring minorities and women into the construction workforce, they still represent a fraction of workers, as Sandherr mentioned in his public statements this week. Women accounted for just about 9% of the 2017 U.S. construction workforce, according to the Bureau
DeSoto ISD’s new Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy (KJTMA) was developed with a progressive design concept that reimagines educational facilities to better support innovative instructional practices that engage students in learning. With an emphasis on technology, STEM, and outdoor learning, the school provides extensive opportunities for students to engage in project-based, collaborative learning in a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly building.

Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet AcademyNamed in celebration of Katherine Johnson, one of the first African-American mathematicians employed by NASA and the subject of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, KJTMA will provide future-ready academic learning opportunities focused on robotics, coding, science, digital art, and music for 900 K-5 students annually.

Although it has experienced the same exponential population growth as its North Texas neighbors, DeSoto ISD faces some unique challenges regarding enrollment, sustaining student interest, and preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow:
  • 72 percent of the DeSoto student population is considered economically disadvantaged.
  • Only 30 percent of parents hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, which limits students’ exposure to a variety of career paths.
  • New charter schools are providing stiff competition for student enrollment. DeSoto has the second highest rate of charter school transfers, with 20 percent of the student population leaving the public school system. Most of these transfers occur at primary grade levels.

Katherine Johnson Magnet Technology Academy (KJMTA) is DeSoto ISD’s response to these challenges; it’s a way to engage and inspire a younger generation that typically establishes an aptitude for and interest in STEM-related fields by 5th grade. As noted by Evin Shutt of global advertising and design firm 72andSunny, the creative class is the fastest growing class today, and 65 percent of kindergarten students will hold jobs that don’t yet exist. As Artificial Intelligence begins to redefine job positions, the ability to translate metadata storytelling and to collaborate on empathic innovative solutions will become a market differentiator. DeSoto ISD is invested in growing lifelong learners with lateral thinking skills and flexibility to obtain jobs not yet identified by the market.

Designed with student collaboration in mind, Perkins+Will worked with DeSoto ISD to challenge the typical elementary school model. A highly collaborative media center forms the heart of the school as a variety of secure outdoor learning areas surround it and encourage student engagement and flexible learning. The media center experience was designed to spark curiosity by blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor space, incorporating daylight, views, thermal comfort, materials, and continuous organic expression. In addition to evidence that hands-on learning experiences in nature can improve test scores and attendance, the transparency of the outdoor learning spaces brings daylighting deep inside the building footprint.

Grade-level classroom corridors surround the media center anchor and form a protective shell around this organic experience. KJMTA features a variety of learning spaces for full class groups, small groups, and individual exploration. Operable acoustic glass partitions in the lower level collaboration spaces provide added flexibility and privacy for users as needed. These collaborative spaces feature exposed systems for learning on display as well as daylight, views, technology, and flexible furniture to facilitate productive collaborative activity. Colors inspired by wearable technology bring a sense of identity to each grade level. The building’s wayfinding reinforces grade-level identity with a creative floor design inspired by circuit boards and connections. Color begins at the art outdoor learning area tracing through the building and terminating at their respective corridors.