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Manim8/Blendswap, TheStranger/Blendswap
And no amount of data or complex modeling will rectify the building industry’s staggering impact on the environment. Design culture itself needs to change.

For the past eight years, I’ve spent every day of my professional life enabling an industry that is responsible for nearly 40% of global climate emissions. I don’t work for an oil or gas company. I don’t work for an airline. I’m an architect.

The environmental impacts of the built environment are staggering. Although it’s become mainstream to discuss energy efficiency and advocate for minimizing those impacts, architects, engineers, and planners have yet to truly reckon with the magnitude and consequences of everyday design decisions. Not only do we burn fossil fuels to heat and cool most buildings, but construction itself is responsible for plenty of global emissions. Construction requires massive amounts of concrete, steel, aluminum, and glass—all of which are carbon-intensive materials. Their emissions extend up and down the supply chain, crossing property boundaries, economic sectors, and markets. While architects are not fully responsible for steel manufacturing or concrete production per se, there is a direct line from the material specifications that architects write to the steel mills of China, the coal mines of Appalachia, the brick kilns of India, or clear-cut forests in the Pacific Northwest or the Amazon.

It is time for the design community to come to terms with carbon and climate change—both the reality of our shared climate emergency and the very personal implications of the building industry’s role in perpetuating it. Only then can we do the hard work of connecting our climate concern with our day-to-day actions, transforming guilt into collective change.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways of measuring the emissions caused by buildings: operational carbon (the emissions associated with energy used to operate a building) and embodied carbon (the emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole life cycle of a building).

Programs such as LEED, Passive House, and the Living Building Challenge focus on decreasing the former—operational carbon. This is a laudable goal; after all, building operations account for 28% of global carbon emissions, and improving the energy efficiency of buildings through widespread electrification and through decarbonization of the energy grid is essential.

However, we’ve come to recognize that it is not enough for architects and engineers to focus solely on operational carbon. For decades, we have been ignoring the role of embodied emissions in global carbon budgets.

Embodied carbon from building materials and construction currently represents at least 11% of global carbon emissions, much of which can be attributed to just three materials: concrete, iron, and steel. However, that seemingly small slice of the full carbon pie can be misleading. Global construction is proceeding at an incredible pace—with roughly 6.13 billion square feet of construction each year and global building stock expected to double in the next 30 years. When we look at new buildings anticipated to be built between now and 2050, embodied carbon, also known as “upfront carbon” because it is released before a building is even occupied, is projected to account for nearly half of total new construction emissions. For practicing architects, engineers, policymakers, and anyone who cares about climate strategy, this should give us pause.

In 2018, a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), called Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, asked two pressing questions: How can the global community reach the 1.5ºC target laid out by the Paris Agreement, and what happens if we fail? The report has two major takeaways. First, it is still possible to meet our climate targets, but only with immediate and unprecedented action. Second, the world presented if we fail to meet this target, by even a modest-sounding half-degree, are bleak—widespread ecosystem destruction, financial instability, growing social inequity, conflict and unrest, the disappearance of landmasses and nations. The scenarios are so clearly articulated, the models so robust, and the science so well documented, that they have ignited new urgency to find pathways across all sectors to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and accelerate our progress towards a 1.5ºC pathway. Unfortunately, we are nowhere near meeting these targets. Last week, the UN Environment Program issued its annual
Smiley N. Pool
Let’s celebrate some of the highlights and lament the misfires.

Here’s a look at big moments in architecture as we celebrate the highs, lows and uh-ohs of the departing decade in Dallas culture, 2010-2019.

Growing pains in the Arts District

It’s easy to take the Arts District for granted — easy, because even after a decade of building it still has a tendency to feel, well, kind of dead. It’s not for a shortage of big-name architects. Additions to the district over the last 10 years have included Norman Foster’s AT&T Performing Arts Center, OMA’s Wyly Theatre, SOM’s Moody Performance Hall, and Allied Works’ expansion of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. A bevy of less-impressive towers are filling in around these signature projects, with the ill-conceived Museum Tower being the most notorious. While all this building has gone on, a master plan for the district has sat on a shelf, waiting for implementation. Most cities, one should note, make the urban plan, and then allow for the building. Here, we do it in reverse and pay the price, which is empty streets. Still, we have some really nice buildings, and with the new development, there is potential for new life.

The decade’s best new buildings in Dallas

Rather than a single champion, we spread the accolades among a group of projects that collectively make Dallas a better place: Test Pavilion at the Dallas Arboretum (Buchanan Architecture), the St. Michael and All Angels Columbarium (Max Levy), the Temple Emanu-El expansion (Cunningham Architects), College Park Pavilion (Snøhetta), the Cottages at Hickory Crossing (BC Workshop), Webb Chapel Park Pavilion (Cooper Joseph Studio), the Wyly Theatre (OMA), the Booker T. Washington expansion (Allied Works), the Warehouse (Droese Raney), Pacific Plaza Pavilion (HKS), the Marshall Family Performing Arts Center at the Greenhill School (Weiss/Manfredi), the Science Building at the Lamplighter School (Marlon Blackwell), Bullion Restaurant (Gensler), 1217 Main St. (5G Studio), Rolex Building (Kengo Kuma), and Fire Station 27 (Perkins & Will).

Signature spans

In a fit of skyline-altering extravagance that we will probably never see again, Dallas managed to open not one but two bridges designed by Spanish shape-wizard Santiago Calatrava, each named for a beloved matriarch named Margaret. Like most everything built by Calatrava, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the Margaret McDermott Bridge were massively expensive, dogged by construction problems, needlessly grandiose, uniformly white and — arguably — beautiful. At least, with the former, there was a purpose in the ostentation: the creation of a signal gateway to West Dallas, which has rapidly gentrified since the bridge’s inauguration. Of course, despite the big price tag, the bridge made no accommodation for pedestrians or cyclists, a fact only partially ameliorated by the transformation of the erstwhile Continental Avenue Bridge into a car-free elevated park. Call that a victory.

The fall of sprawl’s thrall?

Yes, the cookie-cutter developments continued to sprout in the hinterlands, but the younger set returned to the city, and even those who remained out in the burbs clamored for reform. In Plano, in McKinney, in Frisco, and points beyond, suburban centers began emphasizing walkability and rail connection to the city, even as they remained principally automotive in nature. (They also became a lot more diverse.) Even Jerry Jones, always with a keen eye for opportunity, noticed the trend, the result being his own mini-city devoted to football: the Star, an antiseptic paradise for Cowboys fans.

The eternal quest for a Fair Park plan

Did you have a plan to save Fair Park? It seemed like everyone did during the 2010s. There were plans, and then more plans, and more plans after that. Every year, we heard lamentations about the state of affairs at the city’s crown jewel — too much concrete, no connection with the neighbors, underuse, decaying landmarks, flooding — and every year there was another plan to save the place that went exactly nowhere. It looked like we might just get through the entire decade with zero progress until, late in 2018, the city finally — finally — signed a 20-year deal with a private management firm with a solid history of running parks. Will this be the answer? The problems are still real, but there’s hope. And a $15 million
Architect Magagine
Aaron Betsky on why the work at this year's event gives hope for the future of architecture.

The breadth of the World Architecture Festival, a confab held for the last four years in Amsterdam (but moving to Lisbon next year), is astonishing. I know of no other conference or competition in the field that brings together such a great variety of architecture, interiors, and landscapes projects. Moreover, you can actually understand the many designs that are nominated in a dizzying array of different categories because each of the designers gets 20 minutes to present and defend their projects in front of a jury and a live audience. Inflatable tents that flank the manufacturers’ stands, which show the latest doorknobs and blinds and thus pay a lot of the events’ bills, are home to these non-stop critiques. The juries then pick a winner in each of the categories, which include best interior, best student work, best drawing, and best future building.

This year I had the honor of being a member of the “super jury,” which had the task of picking the best building of the year, which was featured with the other honorees at the event’s closing gala. Working with fellow jury members Anuradha Mathur, Ben van Berkel, Maria Warner Wong, and Murat Tabanlioglu, we picked the LocHal in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Designed by a team of three women-led firms (Braaksma & Roos, Inside/Outside, and Mecanoo), it is the renovation of a former train locomotive repair facility into a library and community hub. Not only was the work carried out with great care and produced a wide variety of beautifully proportioned, open, and functional spaces, but it also brought together four of the most important themes we saw in the work that was produced this last year: the repurposing of existing buildings; the importance of libraries as new community centers; the prominence of women designers, and the emergence and integration of new technologies, in this case the “heat the people, not the space” principle devised by Arup for this job, in which heating and cooling is directed only to those place and at those times when people are present.

What we missed (you can’t have everything in one project) were some other important themes. One was the integration of landscape and building. We saw projects in Singapore, New Zealand, Scotland, and Shenzhen that are more or less buried in the landscape, or where the landscape meanders through the whole building, turning the structures into open public spaces that bring together a variety of functions. Other projects open up to a borrowed landscape, in the manner of the library for the Sekkei-Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, which uses the trees of the adjacent temple yard to shield its massive expanse of glass from the sun. Yet others, like a small religious structure in Abu Dhabi, cloak themselves in the imagery of rocks and desert. It made you think that in the future, those projects that will not disappear into renovations of existing structures will dissolve into the landscape.

A second theme was the uncoupling of form or gesture from function. There was nary a blob to be found in the whole of the festival, nor were there many shards or angles (the notable example being the beautifully detailed and sited dwelling the Australian firm Terroir designed for a site in suburban Sydney, which won the Best House Award). The Weird Stuff category was dominated by Thomas Heatherwick Associates, who vied for the top prize with both the Vessel, their three-dimensional M.C. Escher in New York’s Hudson Yards, and their shopping mall in London, the Coal Drop Yards, where they delaminated and rebuilt the roof of two industrial buildings and curved them up and towards each to house a Samsung Concept Store. All hat (or stairs) and no cattle, as the old Texas saying about show-offs goes, the buildings’ lack of architectonic qualities highlighted that the era of expressionist exploration of technological possibilities is fading.

There were some other notable images and moves spread throughout the festival. I loved the winner of the Best Community Building Award, a small library for a village in southern China designed by teams led by faculty from schools in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. And I wish that more architects who are engaged in such collaborations with local inhabitants and craftspeople could afford the rather steep fees and travel costs that are the festival’s biggest drawback. The “mat building,” a labyrinth of closed and open spaces that hugs the ground and crea
Noah Pylvainen, Perkins and Will
Once perceived as "intimidating" by her colleagues, the principal and director of global diversity at Perkins and Will went from following the rules to defining them.

This op-ed appeared in the December 2019 issue of ARCHITECT. On Dec. 12, 2019, The American Institute of Architects announced Gabrielle Bullock, FAIA, as the recipient of the 2020 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award.

Big change can come from people who never expected to become change makers—from people who frequently second-guessed themselves, who look different from everyone else, and who never jumped the line. The tortoises, not the hares.

I had always been a rule-follower who stays the course—an idealist empowered by personal ambition and my mother’s encouragement. When I decided to become an architect, I pursued design with little fear of failure. Looking back, I realize that harnessing my own naive bravery was the best thing I could have done.

My formal training in architecture began at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1979. I knew I had earned my seat there, but, deep down, I continuously felt “less than.” I didn’t anticipate that I’d be the only black woman in my classes, or that I’d have to find my tribe outside of architecture, among other students of color. Suppressing feelings of isolation, inadequacy, and invisibleness, I focused on working my ass off.

The architectural jargon was foreign and unintelligible, and I struggled to understand what the professors and critics were saying. I realize now that this was very much the egocentric, starchitect era of design education. This was their platform to shine, and they commanded it.

Recognizing that this was part of the game that would lead me to success, I worked even harder to learn their language. Once I grasped the concepts, I no longer felt inadequate. I even felt empowered to break the rules I had struggled to understand.

In 1984, I became the second black woman ever to graduate RISD’s architecture department—and with A’s no less. After 21 years in the profession, I was tapped to be managing director of my firm’s Los Angeles office. I was flattered, scared, and surprised, but with encouragement from my tribe, I became the first woman and first African American to hold that role, firmwide.

Once I grasped the concepts, I ... felt empowered to break the rules I had struggled to understand.

As a woman with a direct communication style, I learned over time from peers that some colleagues and staff perceived me as “intimidating.” Though I was the leader of my office, my requests, statements, and directives were met frequently with resistance. Self-reflection, coaching, and soul-searching occupied a good deal of my time; realizing what you can adapt while remaining true to yourself, and recognizing and addressing gender or racial bias are strategies I’ve had to develop throughout my design career.

While not dismissing the existence of unconscious biases, I chose to modify my professional style not only to keep my hard-earned seat at the table, but also to ensure my voice was heard, and, ultimately, to become the leader of the room. I mastered the rules to win the game.

In 2013, I was ready to make my next move at the firm. After completing several international projects and taking stock of my own experiences, I had cultural competency on my mind. I wanted the profession to be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive. I believed that we could change what we design by changing who designs it.

With the agency I had earned, I chose to develop a firmwide diversity and inclusion program, which I now lead. All my academic and professional experiences, advancements, and challenges have brought me to this point in my career.

Calls to diversify the complexion and cultural makeup of the design profession to better mirror the society we serve have become louder and more intense, with many more voices chiming in. But we have a long way to go. To women and underrepresented groups, I say harness your inner strength, find your tribe, and then use your voice. Being the only one in the room can be your platform to shine.
Conversations around resiliency today seem to imply that planners and designers might be capable of—might even be expected to—save every building and public space at risk. The sad truth is, however, that we cannot, and perhaps we should not. Climate change and its attendant sea level rise will radically redraw urban edges, forcing us to make difficult decisions. Even if we had the vast sums of money required to protect the precarious status quo, that might not be enough to stave off the inevitable.

So, then: What are our priorities? How do we choose what to save? How do we responsibly chart this uncertain future? I believe the answers to these and similar questions should begin with an honest assessment of three essential considerations:

(1) Consider the useful life of buildings, structures, and public spaces. When thinking about how to apportion funds for resiliency and risk assessment, the “useful life” of a facility should be a key determinant in what is saved (note that I do not say “protect,” a potentially more accessible goal). Every structure and public space is designed to have a “useful life”: an anticipated life span based on design and construction. This is usually determined by clients, but it should be a significant consideration for designers, too. For example, hospitals are designed for, at minimum, a 100-year existence, even if internal mechanical systems require upgrading to keep pace with technological advances.

Sadly, housing—particularly standalone and attached residences—typically falls far below this threshold. One of the major challenges for this sector is that we largely construct these buildings with concrete, which is also true for infrastructure. Exposed-concrete structures, such as bridges and tunnels, have an approximate 50-to-60-year life span. In other words, New York’s Robert Moses-era infrastructure has now reached the end of its viability. Steel structures are also limited, if they are not regularly inspected and monitored for rust and deterioration. As a result, in the future, hospitals located near or in flood zones might warrant saving, but at-risk housing and infrastructure might not.

(2) Evaluate their worth to society. Every structure and space should be considered in terms of the value to people of its ability to withstand the impacts of a physically disruptive occurrence—i.e., the ability to recover from a traumatic event—and supported accordingly. Critical facilities include hospitals, food storage and delivery systems, and infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and telecommunications that provide evacuation and emergency response opportunities. Among these, facilities considered highly critical should be evaluated based on their capacity to integrate redundant systems that will enable them to function immediately following a catastrophic event. For example, following Hurricane Sandy, a number of major facilities along New York’s Upper East Side “Hospital Row” lacking in-built redundancy had their mechanical systems overwhelmed by flooding, which resulted in weeks of disruption to crucial medical care.

Considering public spaces, one might ask whether parks, for example, are “critical infrastructure.” Clearly, they are not vital to one’s ability to recover or survive a catastrophic event, but are they critical in terms of daily life? I would argue that they are. So what level of risk are we willing to accept for parkland? And if this parkland—125 of New York City’s 525-mile-long coastline, for example—is within a zone of vulnerability from storms and sea level rise, then will we slowly see the disappearance of it as seas rise and storm frequency accelerates? Should we be planning to replace that parkland elsewhere? Should we relocate (“retreat”) people from coastal communities so that we can build replacement parks at a higher elevation (a highly unlikely option)? Or do we simply accept this “taking” of parkland by natural forces? On the other hand, when is a “floodable park” no longer usable? When it floods monthly, or weekly, or diurnally with the tide? All of these elements come into consideration when evaluating the investment value of resiliency interventions in these spaces.

(3) Officially categorize structures and spaces and take action based on risk management and climate change considerations. The NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy an
Climate Reality
o its great credit, the American Institute of Architects recently denounced the Trump administration’s decision to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. This may put the professional organization on the right side of history, but it’s unlikely to sway any hardened hearts and minds in Washington. Obviously, the executive branch is worse than useless on this issue: not just an impediment to change, but a malevolent force for willful inaction. It’s hard to see it as anything less than an enemy of the climate.

Until this odious cast of characters in changes, climate activists must turn their attention elsewhere. Fortunately there’s an under-the-radar lobbying effort underway in California, by the AIA’s state chapter, that holds the potential to totally transform the building sector. In July, the organization’s Committee on the Environment, in collaboration with Edward Mazria of Architecture 2030, persuaded the California’s AIA’s governing board to support the adoption of a statewide Zero Code as soon as possible. The organization sent a letter to the governor in September, co-signed by leading firms, virtually all of the local chapters, as well as the cities of Berkeley, Santa Monica, Fremont, San Luis Obispo, and Culver City.

Green buildings in California would no longer be about rewarding good intentions or being less bad, no longer be about commemorative plaques or LEED ratings. Emissions-free buildings would be required by law.

If enacted, a Zero Code would essentially mandate emissions-free new buildings almost immediately. (Architecture 2030 defines a Zero Net Carbon building as “a highly energy efficient building that produces on-site, or procures, enough carbon-free renewable energy to meet building operations energy consumption annually.”) Green buildings in California would no longer be about rewarding good intentions or being less bad, no longer be about commemorative plaques or LEED ratings.

Emissions-free buildings would be required by law.

Before we go any further, though, the logical question to ask is the obvious one: Is this even possible? Is it politically feasible? For all of the well-meaning rhetoric swirling around the idea of a Green New Deal, none of it can even begin to happen without fundamental changes in policy, primarily at the state and local level. In California, the adoption of a Zero Code is largely dependent on the strong support of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has not weighed in on the issue.

Mazria initially approached the California AIA with a bolder approach, pushing the idea of an immediate Zero Code adoption via executive order, presumably the fastest route possible. As it turns out, this isn’t an option in California, where energy codes for buildings must be vetted and approved by the California Energy Commission. (The next overhaul will occur in 2022.) The governor, however, exerts a fair amount of control over that body. In two years, Governor Newsom will have either appointed or reappointed a majority of the commissioners on the five-member governing board. If he truly wanted to kick start the Green New Deal, putting his political muscle behind adoption of the Zero Code would be a monumental first step.

In the meantime, AIA California is working on several fronts, pushing and pulling at three different levers of power. “We’re organizing opportunities to enlist Governor Newsom’s active support,” says San Francisco architect William Leddy, who with Mazria helped convince the chapter to support adoption of the clean code. “Thanks to Michael Malinowski, the AIA’s government liaison, we’ve also discovered that there’s an avenue that might be much easier to attempt right now. And that’s to introduce the Zero Code immediately as a ‘reach code’ within CALGreen, which is the California Green Building Standard. We believe this approach doesn’t require the energy commission process. It would give cities around the state the option to adopt the Zero Code now, while we continue to pursue formal statewide adoption through the lengthy code-revision process.”

The reason these considerations are even possible is why Mazria approached the California AIA in the first place. Despite the apocalyptic fires, the rolling blackouts, the somewhat predictable this-is-the-end-of-California-as-we-know-it pronouncements, the state is well under way in its eventual transitio
Christopher Barrett.
Here’s a bold statement that we all need to be reminded of. Pinterest has altered the design world—but it hasn’t replaced the need for a designer.

In a fascinating report on Evidence-Based Design (EBD) from The Center for Health Design, the company defines EBD as “the deliberate attempt to base building decisions on the best available research evidence with the goal of improving outcomes and of continuing to monitor the success or failure for subsequent decision-making.” In short, purposeful design isn’t just a compilation of pretty pictures, but it’s backed by results, best practices, experience, trial and error, and years of research all curated into an expertly planned space centered around the end user's functionality and with inspiration in mind.

Mark Hirons FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP, design principal for CannonDesign, explained it best: “Informed design at the onset of a project leverages baseline comparisons to offer the client context and an enriched design consultancy experience. Design should be behavioral-focused and use relevant data as a means to explore ideas. Each project is unique. Ultimately, it’s a fine-tuned process that, while working with the client over time, results in a meaningful environment and often a portfolio of thoughtfully designed spaces.”

Understanding the Value of Design

The value of design exists in its ability to support two of the client’s most valuable resources: people and place. “While oftentimes clients initially may have preconceived notions, we seek to listen to their vision, understand their culture and explore new ideas that will best position them for the future. We look at behaviors and focus on efficiency and, even more importantly, effectiveness. While everyone wants a space that works well and is budget-friendly, the most important question is how do we purposefully design our client’s second-most-expensive asset in their portfolio (real estate) to make their first-most-expensive asset (people) more effective.”

By overlaying well-being, collaboration, privacy, and meaningful interaction, Hirons explains, great design can do both.

Want vs. Reality

Hirons notes that often the first endeavor is deciphering the difference between a client’s wants and needs within a space to best achieve their goals. “Our job is to take a step back and analyze how best to translate ideas and choices, authentically, to our client,” he says. “They may express an impact, characteristic, or mood desired for their space and our goal is to translate that with their brand and story to craft the environment for which they are aspiring.”

He continues, “Design is taking the desired behaviors and matching them with an array of purposeful settings that support concentration, collaboration, comprehension, and social connection and creating them to express each client’s mission and culture. We come back with a list of design choices that offer both the feel they want and the functional environment we know they need. For example, we’ll provide a list of things to consider—perhaps multi-functional spaces, art, gardens, enhanced technology, etc.—then the client can decide to pull different levers or accentuate certain choices to make the space more engaging and experiential.”

Design as a Catalyst, Space as an Innovator

As a well-illustrated example of this EBD principle, Hirons shared a recent client experience where a leading biopharmaceutical company in Korea wanted an environment that spoke to its brand reputation of being a global leader. After meeting with the client, CannonDesign realized the company needed to provide a space that supported its employees throughout their entire day.

“They wanted a work environment that infused the elements of collaboration, innovation, reflection, and a holistic perspective,” explained Hirons. “We delivered more than 50 different settings—from a living forest and micro-kitchens to seminar rooms and sleeping pods—that spoke to the idea of being the only one. We looked at each experience a person could have throughout the day and how the spaces could support productivity and infuse innovation. Ultimately, design was the catalyst to create a completely unique environment to enrich their staff members’ lives everyday.”

To clarify, Pinterest and the use of imagery has a place in the conte
What is a social stair? Remember back in 2001, when OMA/Koolhaas and Scheeren completed the Prada Boutique (now called Prada Epicenter) on lower Broadway in Soho? It features an amphitheater-like stair leading from the ground floor down to the basement. This stair can be used as a stair, taking you from one level to the next. It can also be used as bleacher-like seating. And when it is not accommodating seated human beings, the amphitheater part of the stair can be peopled with ranks of mannequins outfitted in Prada fashions. Though not the first of its kind, the Prada stair is the archetype of the 21st-century social stair. The social stair connotes a style of 21st-century sociability: cool; hip; spontaneous; diverse, yet connected; and youthful. As such, it has been transformed into a symbol: an icon of collective identity that suggests it has the power to make you cool, hip, awesome (and maybe even young) — just by being in its presence. The 21st-century word associated with this phenomenon of implied magical bonding is “meme” (rhymes with “mean”). My authoritative source on 21st-century forms of knowledge, Wikipedia, tells me that “meme” means a unit of conduct that you can internalize and imitate in order to represent yourself to others as embodying the desirable associations — cool, hip, awesome, young — affiliated with the meme/form. So now you know: The social stair is a magical meme. It possesses the power to confer a social identity, linking you to a community that you want other people to see you as belonging to.

The Wikipedia entry on memes has a whole section on architectural memes, an indication of the potency that buildings possess to shape the attitudes, opinions, and conduct of the people who occupy, or simply pass by, them. The Wikipedia entry also identifies the foremost theorist of architectural “meme-ology” as Nikos A. Salingaros, professor of mathematics at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and author of “A Theory of Architecture” (2006).

Houston, in the past four years, has experienced a population explosion of high-profile social stairs. The expansion and reconstruction of the University of Houston Student Center South (2015, EYP and WTW); the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (2015, Studio RED and Lake|Flato); the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University (2017, Michael Maltzan); the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2018, Steven Holl and Kendall/Heaton Associates); and the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (2019, Gensler) all have public spaces configured around social stairs. Do the people who frequent these buildings actually hang out on the social stairs, embodying the forms of contemporary sociability depicted in architectural renderings? Or is this even a relevant question? Doesn’t the very existence of the social stair demonstrate that the building comes equipped with the necessary spaces for shaping cool, awesome, etc., subjects and bonding them into a community?

In his book “The Architecture of Neoliberalism: How Contemporary Architecture Became an Instrument of Control and Compliance” (2016), the British architectural historian and theorist Douglas Spencer decodes such memes as the social stair; long refectory-like communal work tables; internally exposed trusses, ducts, tile block walls, and concrete floor slabs; and interior glass partitions to argue that these are not simply constituents of a currently fashionable style of architecture but the material and spatial building blocks of a social system based on the exaltation of economic markets. What Spencer finds notable about the effort to shape people’s (and especially architects’) self-conceptions and their ideas about community is how often Neoliberalism operates through soft means (and soft memes) — architecture, fashion, advertising images, architectural renderings — rather than through rules, creeds, and the formation of political or religious belief structures. The rhetoric of self-direction and workplace democracy, the absence of hierarchy, the ability to bring your pet to work — are visually portrayed in memetic images of happy, attractive, racially and ethnically diverse groups of young people working at their laptops or texting on their cellphones, spontaneously generating innovation even as they break from their co-work perches on social stairs to grab a healthy fusion snack at the nearest
Wanda Lau
Building professional connections is a skill not taught in many architecture programs, but it is a necessity in practice, Evelyn Lee writes in her first column for ARCHITECT.

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point (Back Bay Books, 2002), I would be considered a “connector.” I’ve been in the industry nearly two decades, with about 15 years serving on different AIA committees at all levels. As a business school graduate and contributing writer to several publications, I seek out individuals and organizations thinking about the future of architecture and how practice needs to adapt. I enjoy connecting people within my network because, while the design profession is relatively small, the number of us thinking about the evolution of practice is even smaller. Relationship building has been critical to my own growth, professionally and personally. My best connections keep me excited about the industry, challenge my viewpoints, and have become incredible mentor and advocates—and I take pride in cultivating my network.

Which is why I was taken aback by the flurry of cold emails and messages I received from firm principals and senior designers almost immediately upon updating my LinkedIn profile with my new role as the inaugural senior experience designer at Slack, the fast-growing tech company in San Francisco. Since I had moved to the client side three years ago, my ability to hire architects was nothing new. So why the widespread attention? Perhaps it was Slack’s recent IPO?

The myriad mindless messages I received in response to my new position truly left a bad taste in my mouth. Business school graduates know that networking is fundamental: Universities want to promote what percentage of their alumni have gone on to find successful jobs, and building relationships enhances that stat. Literally, Networking 101 is built into B-school orientation.

But designers could certainly do much better when they reach out. To make the process more palatable to both you and your networking target, I offer five recommendations for developing professional relationships.

Look for Mutual Connections
Regardless of your age or experience, leverage the resources that exist in your network. People are more receptive to an email that comes from someone they know—or even someone who knows someone they know—than from a stranger. This validates a good connection and assures the recipient that the contact will be deeper than a superficial ask for new work. The architecture world is not that big.

It’s Not About You
The first outreach should never be about your needs: It’s always about theirs. Do not fish for information in the first contact; instead, be specific about why you want to talk or, at the very least, if you’re requesting their particular experience and viewpoint on your own work. If you explicitly want to talk about my new job, then I will shelve your request.

Simplify Your Ask
Most people will be happy to talk for 15 minutes on a topic they are passionate about—just make sure you know what that topic is. I have had more success asking for a 15-minute phone conversation than an in-person sit-down. Even a coffee meetup means you are asking someone to take time out of their day, go to a place out of their routine, and commit to a conversation that they may not be excited about. Fifteen minutes first. Then maybe coffee.

Be Patient
Relationships take time, trust, and nurturing. A milestone in a person’s career is a good reason to reach out or pick up a conversation with a connection you haven’t talked to in a while. As with personal relationships, it takes time to develop professional confidantes.

Google Yourself
Leverage technology but be mindful of your own profile. Whether you are building your own network or on the receiving end of a cold email, people are going to research who you are. Clean up your public personas and make sure they reflect your professional self.

About 10 years ago, I picked up a great book on social media marketing for AEC professionals. I wanted to meet the author and was excited to discover she was running a workshop at the local AIA component. I made the workshop but had to run immediately after the event without speaking with her. My few shared connections with her on LinkedIn were merely acquaintances to me—so I took a chance and messaged her directly. In my email, I explained that I had attended her workshop, had questions about specific points she made, and was interested on her take on the profession’s
Gabriela Marks
Fostering a more inclusive profession is everyone's job.

As the 2019 President of The American Institute of Architects, I have had the honor to learn from and listen to colleagues from across the nation and around the world. Those interactions have reinforced what I always knew: Our similarities, as people and as professionals, far outweigh our differences.

We don’t all speak the same language, come from the same family background, or share the same cultural heritage, but we do share a commitment to advancing our communities and our societies through the power of design.

Today, architects are finding ways, both small and large, to improve the profession’s environmental stewardship of the built world. In the years ahead, we must commit to leaning into this effort. I am proud of the clear direction of the board, Strategic Council, and members to seize the leadership moment presented by climate change, and I look forward to sharing the first steps in AIA’s years-long effort to lead on this issue.

However, leadership in the 21st century takes more than noble ideals and a clear vision. Today it requires the inclusion, innovation, ingenuity, and leadership of everyone.

As a profession, we are becoming more diverse, but it’s taking place slowly—especially in comparison to the society we serve.

For example, 46 percent of students enrolled in schools of architecture are women, up from 25 percent in 1985. In 2016, women accounted for 36 percent of newly licensed architects. That’s substantial progress, but we have a considerable way to go. After all, women make up 51 percent of the total population and 56 percent of all college students.

On the issue of race, progress has been harder to achieve, especially concerning African Americans and Hispanics. Currently, about 13 percent of college students identify as African American and a little more than 18 percent identify as Hispanic. In contrast, African Americans account for roughly 5 percent of architecture students.

Further along the career pipeline, roughly 19 percent of new architects identify as nonwhite. These statistics stand in sharp distinction to prevailing national demographic trends. For example, 39 percent of millennials self-identify with a race or ethnicity other than white, about double the share of the baby boomer generation at the same age. And according to census data, 48 percent of Gen Z (post-millennials) identify as nonwhite.

To help facilitate and advance the critical conversations needed to expand the pipeline of women and minorities into architecture and to retain them throughout their careers, AIA’s Guides for Equitable Practice, created in partnership with the University of Minnesota and AIA’s Equity and Future of Architecture Committee, continue to facilitate necessary discussions about fostering a more inclusive profession.

I am convinced that as we expand the definition of who is an architect, we will extend what architecture can accomplish. As firms and schools conduct critical conversations to better understand and eliminate the barriers and biases that challenge underrepresented groups in the profession, we will dramatically improve, impress, and ultimately inspire the society we serve through diverse design thinking.

To lead, we must be more diverse—as diverse as the population we serve. All of us have a critical role in ensuring that the talent and perspective of everyone, without regard to race, age, socio-economic background, or gender, is included in our effort to create a more equitable, compassionate, and environmentally responsible built world— and, by extension, society.
Building Design + Construction
With the rapid evolution of available technologies, and the integration of them into the profession, the role of an architect is changing faster than it ever has before.

The profession of architecture is one that dates back to ancient times, with a profound impact on the built environment of civilizations all over the world. The evolution of the practice has been relatively slow; while technologies and styles have evolved, the fundamentals today are not all that different than they were historically.

However, with the rapid evolution of available technologies, and the integration of them into the profession, the role of an architect is changing faster than it ever has before. At HMC Architects, we believe that the best way to stay relevant in our changing profession is to always be considering what the future holds, and pushing ourselves and the boundaries of the profession.


Taking a building from concept to reality is a long, involved process, with each project presenting its own unique set of challenges. For the sake of discussion, the core tenets of the architectural process can be simplified as follows:
  • Interpreting client
  • Developing a design solution
  • Submitting a design for approval from the local building agency
  • Conveying the design solution to the contractor via construction documents
  • Verifying that the construction is true to the documents provided
There are nuances to those responsibilities, such as code compliance and environmental considerations, but the core of our business is still solution-based, with a focus on problem-solving.

Looking forward, while the tenets may more or less stay the same, there will be less of a focus on the drawing process of the construction documents, and more of a focus on innovative solutions and how they affect as well as support the users of the space.

In turn, clients are becoming more sophisticated, and are demanding a higher level of understanding of the process and, in some cases, desire to be integral to its completion. Luckily, technologies are also advancing, allowing a higher level of information to be easily conveyed.


Technology is migrating into architecture more and more every day. The speed to market has increased significantly with the industrialization of construction with companies like Katerra and DIRTT. These firms are applying logistics via Google Maps to deliver materials to the job site quicker, along with the science of prefabrication to increase the efficiency of construction, which in turn delivers the project quicker to market.

While this is ideal from an operational and logistical standpoint, it also means that some of the traditional aspects of architecture, specifically the drawings, are going to fade away, and the next generation of architects will have a whole new type of deliverables.

These digital outputs, such as building information modeling (BIM), assist in achieving higher performing buildings by looking at regenerative design, renewability, life-cycle costs, and app-based maintenance programs. We also anticipate that, with the digital delivery of construction documents, they will no longer be plan checked by an individual, but by a program-based software; a virtual plan check of sorts. This will speed up the agency approval time, streamlining the path from design to construction while reducing the margin for human error.

The focus is shifting from pure architecture to an environment that is both architectural and user-focused to enhance the occupants’ experience. Our clients are looking for ways to get the most out of their buildings with user apps and sensors that allow them to gather data to determine which spaces are truly utilized, which will drive the need to design for more or less space. Clients will also be using technology and data analytics to determine the life-cycle costs of buildings, as well as forecast occupant experiences to drive future buildings and programs.

With this heightened emphasis on technology, the role of the architect has frequently come into question. While the human component of architecture can never be replaced, many of the once-manual processes can. Architecture and its practitioners must be willing to embrace the migration towards a wholly digital design experience. Adaptability, flexibility, and early adoption of new technologies and procedures will ensure that the collaborative minds at the center of the profession remain a fundamental component of archite
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
It’s not easy to raise a family in a big U.S. city—but it’s not any easier anywhere else in this country

In January, a young mother wheeled her stroller into a New York City subway station that—like most New York City subway stations—had no elevator. As many city parents have done out of desperation at one time or another, she picked up the stroller and carried her baby down the dozens of stairs to the platform. The 22-year-old mother, who had a history of heart problems, fell to her death. Her 1-year-old survived.

This tragic event epitomizes how American cities are openly hostile to families, and it was the only thing I could think of when I read a story in The Atlantic this week that opens with a New York City mom trying to get her two kids and a stroller up a staircase.

“The mom would fold the stroller to the size of a boogie board, then drag it behind her with her right hand, while cradling the younger and typically crying child in the crook of her left arm,” writes Derek Thompson in “The Future of the City is Childless.” “It looked like hell—or, as I once suggested to a roommate, a carefully staged public service announcement against family formation.”

Thompson’s essay addresses what’s become an obsession for urbanist writers, including the writers at his own publication: For all the people, attention, and money currently pouring into U.S. cities, it turns out that few of those resources are being devoted to raising the next generation of city-dwellers.

The narrative presented by Thompson is that young adults who move to big cities end up facing unsurmountable debt and housing costs, wait longer to have kids, then voluntarily leave once they decide to procreate.

San Francisco, which is cited in the story, is the most notorious example. In 2017, only 13 percent of the population was under 18, the lowest percentage of any major U.S. city. There are officially more dogs than children in San Francisco.

That statistic seems shocking until you consider a few other city stats, like the fact that one out of every 100 people in San Francisco doesn’t have a home.

Across the country, many Americans are spending too much on housing to contemplate the added expense of having kids: Over 11 million Americans—the populations of New York City and Chicago combined—spend more than half of their paycheck on housing costs. San Francisco might get all the headlines, but this is not a city-specific problem. There’s not a single county in the U.S., urban or rural, where a person making minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment and have enough money left over to purchase basic necessities for living—let alone the necessities for two or three additional people.

In Los Angeles, where I live, rising rents and a shortage of affordable units mean that the number of families who are homeless went up again last year, even as the city’s social services placed a record number of families in supportive housing. According to a Los Angeles County report, families headed by women are more likely to be evicted, forcing them to live in overcrowded apartments, in vehicles, and on the streets.

Those families aren’t leaving cities. They’re getting left behind.

Sure, affluent parents might opt to pack up the SUV and flee to the suburbs, but the truth is that most people in this country who have children do not have that type of economic mobility. In 2016, the percentage of Americans who moved to another home during that year fell to all-time low of 11.2 percent—about half the rate of domestic migration in 1965.

At the same time, America’s suburbs are also failing families. In a recent Los Angeles Times series, columnist Steve Lopez spent weeks at an elementary school located in a corner of the San Fernando Valley lined with ranch-style homes, grassy yards, child-friendly dining options, and box-store parking lots filled with minivans. Yet a quarter of the school’s children are homeless—living in garages and motels.

In his piece, Thompson poses a handful of solutions that might spark an urban baby boom. “Surely, downtown areas can be made more family-friendly,” he writes. “Mayors can be more aggressive about overcoming the forces of NIMBYism by building affordable housing near downtown areas. The federal government can help.”

But it’s not just a laundry list of kid-friendly amenities that families need, it’s giving parents the financial breathing room to enjoy them. Within
DLR Group
Michael Graves’s famous Portland Building is undergoing a renovation so extensive, it may be de-listed from the National Register of Historic Places.

On a recent afternoon outside the Portland Building, the massive copper Portlandia statue sitting atop its entrance was still encased in scaffolding—the marine goddess’s outstretched hand poking the edge of its white plastic sheathing—as part of an ongoing $195 million renovation and reconstruction.

Despite being a famous landmark designed by architect Michael Graves, and one of the first major Postmodernist buildings in America, the building (owned by the City of Portland) was ultra-value-engineered when it was constructed in the early 1980s, and leaked practically from the start. A few years ago, the city decided renovation was critical if it was to have any functional future.

Although it’s on schedule to reopen at the end of the year, an audit critical of the renovation process is assuring that this seemingly always-controversial design story adds another chapter. City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero found a lack of transparency as the budget has grown to $214 million, and that equity grants to improve the diversity of the construction workforce had not been spent.

Perhaps most notably, the June 12 audit noted the city was “on track to meet the baseline renovation goals but will fall short of other aspirations.” In particular, “the exterior design chosen to address water leaks will result in the circa-1982 building’s delisting from the National Register of Historic Places.”

That actually remains to be seen, for de-listing is a lengthy process that would only commence after construction is complete. But the audit is a reminder of how much this major work of Postmodernist architecture is being transformed. Indeed, the city’s most recognized building has now been given an entirely new facade in a different material. An aluminum over-cladding will completely cover the original painted concrete (which was not removed because it serves in a structural capacity).

The Portland Building’s darkly shaded windows, which contrasted against the cream-colored facade paint, have been replaced with clear glass to add natural light on the interior. Its ground-floor loggias, meant for retail, will now become part of the lobby, glassed in for further light.

While the changed glass unmistakably alters the building’s exterior, it’s the over-cladding that has particularly drawn preservationists’ ire—much as the changes proposed in 2017 by architecture firm Snøhetta for the postmodern AT&T Building in New York City did (those were later nixed as the building was given landmark status by New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission).

“If you cover the character-defining features, how is that historic preservation?” said Kate Kearney, president of the Oregon chapter of Docomomo, an organization that advocates for the preservation of modern architecture. “Personally, I don’t think that holds up. I just find it very odd that these high examples of an architecture movement are really being altered or completely erased from our architectural heritage.”

The audit’s release included a written response from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler which disputed some of the financial findings, arguing that the equity grants were always intended for release at the end of the project and citing a series of City Council briefings on budget changes. But the matter of the Portland Building’s National Register listing and potential de-listing is left unaddressed.

When asked whether there was any explicit requirement that the listing itself be maintained, auditor Tenzin Gonta, who works under Caballero, cited project records “that reference historic integrity being part of scope. Each references the listing on the National Register as background about the building but not maintenance of that status as a specific goal.”
Alexander C. Kafka/Flickr via Creative Commons license
Aaron Betsky on how our Western treasures can inspire us to be better architects.

It is the season to see things bigger than buildings. Summertime is when Americans, despite their ability to go anywhere at any time virtually, hit the road to get some real experiences: mountains, forests, lakes, deserts, and wetlands beckon us away from the grid and the boxes where we live, work, and play, to see structures and spaces at the very edge of human imagination, in both senses of the word.

What draws us above all else is spectacle, and that—no offense to you East Coasters—you’ll find mainly in the West. The canyons, from the Grand one to Bryce, the ranges and valleys around the Tetons, Rockies, and the Coastals are where we can feel most removed from the human scale or our usual sense of purpose. To get to the best views, to feel truly overwhelmed, you have to leave much of your technology behind and hike beyond the crowds. It is a reminder of the limits of both the beauty and the blight that normally surrounds us in our (sub)urban settings, and its very difference should inspire our work as architects.

This last month, I had the pleasure of spending a day in Zion National Park. It was not nearly enough, and I never did get away from those crowds, but still the experience of feeling so small in the face of such grandeur was exhilarating. It was a much needed antidote to my obsession with both architecture and politics.

I will not try to describe the peaks that rise out of the gorge that the Virgin River has cut through the rocks of southern Utah. I took no selfies. I just let the grandeur of it all whisk me away. In truth, I was just as much taken by the sheer violence of the place. Which makes sense: When Edward Burke first defined the notion of the sublime to describe a passage he took through the Alps in the 1750s, his fear of falling off a cliff or being overwhelmed by a storm made him feel just as removed from himself as the beauty of the peaks themselves.

That sense of ecstasy, or standing outside yourself, is what we seek in nature. It is a sensibility that we try to replicate through art or, these days, through chemical or virtual means. Yet there is another sense in which the sublime operates: as something that reminds you not only of your own fragility, but also of the instability of the supposed bedrock of our country. The Virgin River carved its way through something solid over the millennia and, as you survey what the water laid bare, you can see the opposing lines of rocks that were long before lifted up or thrust down in cataclysms of a scale few humans in recorded history have ever experienced.

That movement of plates, those eruptions of volcanoes, those floes of icebergs as tall as skyscrapers, and the floods that must have inspired the tales of global inundation so many cultures tell, have shaped our continent, and give us the America we know today. Our history is violent and profound. That “deep” history, taking place in “geological time,” as the writer John McPhee referred to it in his 1981 book Basin and Range, is usually only visible in less geologically dramatic areas to trained eyes. What makes national parks such as Zion so amazing is that we are confronted with a history of the places that we think we have shaped to our wants and needs, but that reach far beyond us in scale and time.

We should not just build, as Antoine Predock, FAIA, used to be fond of pointing out, on the thin layer of human detritus and loam, but on and with all the layers of our earth.

It should inspire us to rethink our role as architects. Good architects try to respond to a project’s context, shaping their buildings to accept and shed rain and snow, water and heat. They might use materials found on site, transforming them from rough rocks into sheets of veneer or from mud into bricks. But do we ever respond to what lies below and before us, to our larger context? We should not just build, as Antoine Predock, FAIA, used to be fond of pointing out, on the thin layer of human detritus and loam, but on and with all the layers of our Earth. Is there some way to express the instability of the land, its depths, its deep materiality?

The pilgrimages we take to national parks are part of what has made us a community; our family trips to these preserves and the moments of great beauty we have experienced there together have united us. On my hikes, I saw people of all ages and all colors, and I felt I was part of that commu
Amos Chapple
A Mythology of Technology: Stemming from the Greek mythos, meaning “story of the people,” mythology has guided mankind for millennia. Three hundred years ago, intellectuals of the European Enlightenment constructed a mythology of technology. Influenced by a confluence of humanism, colonialism, and racism, the mythology ignored local wisdom and indigenous innovation, deeming it primitive. Guiding this was a perception of technology that feasted on the felling of forests and the extraction of resources. The mythology that powered the Age of Industrialization distanced itself from natural systems, favoring fuel by fire.

Today, the legacy of this mythology haunts us. Progress at the expense of the planet birthed the epoch of the Anthropocene—our current geological period characterized by the undeniable impact of humans upon the environment at a global scale. Charles Darwin, the scholar and naturalist who is seen as the father of evolutionary theory, said “extinction happens slowly,” yet 60% of the world’s biodiversity has vanished in the past 40 years. Coming to terms with an uncertain future, and confronted by climate events that cannot be predicted, species extinctions that cannot be arrested, and ecosystem failures that cannot be stopped, humanity is tasked with developing solutions to protect the wilderness that remains and learning how to transform the civilizations we construct. While we are drowning in an Age of Information, we are starving for wisdom.

Ancient Wisdom

Only a sliver of the technologies that existed at the time of the Enlightenment were valued and shepherded through to the present. Meanwhile, an alternative mythology of technology has been with us since well before the Enlightenment. It is unacknowledged, at the far ends of the Earth, with its contributors deemed “primitive” for centuries. While “modern” societies were trying to conquer Nature in the name of progress, these indigenous cultures were working with it.

Indigenous technologies are not lost or forgotten; they are only hidden by the shadow of progress in the remotest places on earth. Even as society values and preserves the architectural artifacts of dead cultures, like the 4,000-year-old pyramids of Giza, the living are displaced, like the 6,000-year-old floating-island technology of the Ma’dan in the southern wetlands of Iraq. Extending the grounds of typical design, Lo-TEK is a movement that investigates lesser-known local technologies (Lo), traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), indigenous cultural practices, and mythologies passed down as songs or stories. In contrast to the homogeneity of the modern world, indigeneity is reframed as an evolutionary extension of life in symbiosis with nature.

Continuing the conversation on vernacular architecture as popularized in Bernard Rudofsky’s Architecture Without Architects exhibition at MoMA in 1967, Lo-TEK explores the intersection of design and radical indigenism. Coined by Princeton professor and citizen of the Cherokee Nation Eva Marie Garoutte, “radical indigenism” argues for a rebuilding of knowledge and explores indigenous philosophies capable of generating new dialogues. The concept of radical indigenism takes its name from the Latin derivation of the word “radical”: radix, meaning “root.” Design by radical indigenism imagines a movement that rebuilds an understanding of indigenous philosophies in relation to design, to generate sustainable and climate resilient infrastructures. This Lo-TEK movement fills a void at the intersection of innovation, architecture, urbanism, conservation, and indigenism. Once hybridized and scaled, these indigenous technologies could offer a new path to exponentially shrink the ecological footprint of humankind and mitigate the forecast collapse. While the action of individuals is important, it is action at the scale of infrastructures, designed with a mythology that connects individuals to an ecosystem, that can catalyze a global shift.

Lo-TEK is a movement that orients us toward a different mythology of technology, one that evolves humanism with radical indigenism. In the book of the same name, this mythology is told in a compendium of over a hundred indigenous innovations from four ecosystems across the globe: mountains, forests, deserts, and wetlands. A nexus of peoples, places, and practices is explored at the material, module, structural
Edmund Sumner
Why Aaron Betsky loves the new Hong Kong West Kowloon Station by Andrew Bromberg at Aedas.

Sometimes a good building that I nevertheless probably shouldn’t like for all kinds of reasons just bowls me over. That’s the case with the new Hong Kong West Kowloon Station, designed by Andrew Bromberg, FAIA, a global design principal at Aedas. It is not modest; it is not critical architecture. It swoops, it soars, it arches, rises, and spreads. Rarely in recent years have I seen a project with more expressive power than this multi-billion-dollar terminus to a line that is—for better or worse—tying Hong Kong closer to the Chinese mainland. It evokes the excitement of travel and the anticipation that comes with arriving or leaving a city.

For several years I have watched the station's design and construction, which has been hampered by delays, by ever increasing security concerns, by mediocre construction, and by worse station management. So it was a pleasure to finally see the building completed when I was in Hong Kong this spring. Visiting it on a rainy day I missed the full effect of the skylights and clerestories in the station’s main hall, and I was left to scamper around the wet pavement outside, but it was still a delight. Towards the north, the building’s arches flip up above a jagged glass façade, which opens up to a view of Hong Kong Island—a feature that has already drawn comparisons to a dragon. Even in the rain, the building seemed to be continually in motion.

The building is essentially a low-lying arch. A series of giant, stretched trusses, bundled together for strength and braced by branching columns that slot in between the tracks and the spread out, give lateral support to the main roof. But Bromberg also conceived of a simple yet clever twist. Rather than having the arches run at right angles over the main station area to the end of the tracks, the tradition in train termini ever since Euston Station in 1837, he ran them in the same directions as the trains. The result is a visual representation of this superfast mode of transport. It also leaves large openings to the east and the west, the directions in which most people entering or leaving the station will pass.

The various levels of the station undulate both up and down and forward and back to accommodate the different modes of arrival and departure (car, taxi, or bus drop off, and the subway and pedestrian paths to the nearby mega-developments). The terminal serves about 1.5 million travelers a month, who can now travel to Shanghai in a few hours and to Beijing in a day.

As an added bonus, the layers of arches also create an elevated park on top of the station; you can walk up and, more than 80 feet above the ground, enjoy a panoramic view across the harbor of Hong Kong Island. Already, the park has become a site for joggers and selfie takers; the hope is that further development in the area, including the Herzog & de Meuron-designed M+ Museum, will make the public space even more vibrant.

On the inside, Bromberg had originally designed the hall to start at the tracks themselves, so travelers could glimpse the bottom of the arches as soon as they arrived. The cost of a transparent fire barrier made that impossible, creating the same problem that plagues many airports and other transportation nodes: passengers get the best view when leaving or before going through security. After clearing customs, you can still see the some of the spectacle above while waiting for your train, but you have to remember to look up. Travelers who head directly into the subway, meanwhile, will never even enter the hall.

Soon, the station will be surrounded by apartment and office towers that will help pay for the cost of its construction. I believe that Bromberg had hoped to design these as well, but they will be put out for tender separately, so there's not much chance that he can create a large version of the fully integrated transportation hub that Ben van Berkel designed for the station in Arnhem, the Netherlands.

There is a more serious question about the West Kowloon Station that does give me pause. It successfully represents the achievements of a state that is using this very infrastructure to further suppress Hong Kong’s freedom and quasi-independence. Much in the way of Rem Koolhaas, Hon. FAIA’s convoluted design for the Chinese state’s central propaganda machine, CCTV, in Beijing, one has to ask if the project helps perpetuate social and economic injustices.

The Architects' Journal
Architecture firms are rallying to the climate change cause with an 11-point action plan. But have they understood the transformation in practice this will commit them to? Will Hurst reports

Three weeks ago, something momentous happened in British architecture. Seventeen winners of the RIBA Stirling Prize, including Foster + Partners, David Chipperfield Architects, Zaha Hadid Architects and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, issued the Architects Declare call: a plea for practices across the country to join them in recognising the twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss and the ‘paradigm shift’ now required in the construction industry to tackle these looming threats.

Since then, practices of all sizes and types have flocked to the Architects Declare banner. At the time of writing, 429 practices have signed, including about two-thirds of AJ100 firms – 80 per cent of the top 50 and every firm in the top 10. The call to action was mirrored by an open letter from architecture schools, headed ‘Architecture Education Declares’.

Building on the momentum in the profession created by the Extinction Rebellion protests, Parliament’s declaration of a climate emergency, and the AJ’s own ‘Wake Up’ issue on the crisis published in February, the speed and scale of the response has surprised those behind the campaigning initiative.

"Do these firms realise this is not a simple bolt-on, but a fundamental rethink of the design process? "

Yet, as with the government’s more recent commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, actions will speak louder than words. The 11 pledges within the campaign are far-reaching and sound almost improbable, coming from design studios famous for their carbon-hungry towers, mega airports and swooping concrete structures.

Assuming the signatories are sincere, most now face the task of transforming their working practices, their business models and indeed their entire approach to architecture in a very short space of time. As Simon Sturgis asked in the immediate aftermath of the declaration: ‘Do these firms realise this is not a simple bolt-on, but a fundamental rethink of the design process? BREEAM 2018 is not sufficient.’

So what should we make of Architects Declare and how did it come about? Is it truly the start of a profound change of direction for British architecture or panic-driven sloganeering by a sector that has finally got the memo? Moreover, where do those practices who have signed up to the declaration go from here?

Architects Declare has no leaders nor designated spokespeople and each signatory is expected to speak for his or her own organisation. One of the people most active in it is Steve Tompkins, co-founder of RIBA Stirling Prize-winning Haworth Tompkins. Tompkins works on housing, higher education and masterplanning schemes but is best known for his work on cultural buildings, and was named the most influential person in British theatre by The Stage magazine in January. In recent months he has been pondering how architecture should respond to the climate emergency, and hosted a low-carbon focus group organised by the AJ in February. This involved several of those architect-campaigners who later worked behind the scenes on Architects Declare, including Julia Barfield and Waugh Thistleton co-founder Andrew Waugh.

"Many observers point to the yawning gap between the rhetoric and the ongoing work of some of the best-known Stirling winners"

‘The idea was born out of a conversation with [architect and author] Michael Pawlyn in the early part of the year,’ Tompkins recalls. ‘We were both frustrated by the lack of urgency within the construction sector around the climate and biodiversity crises and were discussing how the UK architecture profession as a whole – as opposed to the familiar pioneers who have been quietly working away for years – could find its voice.’

Architectural consultant Caroline Cole then facilitated a meeting of Stirling Prize-winning practices to discuss the idea of a joint public statement or open letter and it soon became clear that all those present agreed in principle on the need for action. The association with the Stirling and the extraordinary coming-together of an otherwise disparate group of leading architects gave the open letter added impact.

Tompkins is heartened by the response, which, he says, confirms his recognition that many architect colleagues ‘share both a deep anxiety about the environmental realities we face and an unmet desire to find ways to work together to respond’.
HKS Urban Food Studio
“How’d you get THAT job?” is a question I hear a lot. In many ways, HKS is a traditional large firm – we are 1,400 people strong with 23 offices around the world and projects that span every geography and market sector imaginable. However, what sets HKS apart from many large firms is our approach to public interest design (PID), defined as design grounded in the belief that every person deserves to live in a socially, economically and environmentally healthy community.

Five years ago, I founded Citizen HKS, based on the 1% Solution (now The 1+ Program), in which we committed to donating one percent of our billable hours to pro bono projects. Though we had signed on to the program years prior, we were not doing an especially good job of managing that time, being thoughtful about how we selected and approached projects, and we were not celebrating the stories of how design work positively impacted the lives of people. In the five years since, we have completed a maternity ward in rural Uganda, an urban food studio in Washington DC, and a sensory wellbeing hub for students on the autism spectrum in Chicago, just to name a few. In addition, we have a robust pipeline of projects currently in design that span the globe from Afghanistan to Detroit to our backyard in Dallas. Internally, Citizen HKS has morphed from “just another initiative” to a foundational pillar of who we are and a source of pride among our leadership and staff.

However, this didn’t just magically happen overnight. There have certainly been – and continue to be – missteps and lessons learned along the way. Early on, we struggled to find projects of the scale and impact we were looking for. At the same time, it was difficult to turn down projects that, while worthwhile on some level, were not a great fit. Staffing selected projects proved challenging in unexpected ways. It was difficult to compete for resources against projects that had “real” clients and were bringing money into the firm. At the same time, it was also hard to engage everyone who expressed a passion for PID when the percentage of actual design work was very small.

Though still a work in progress, Citizen HKS has more than lived up to the expectations set for it. Working with a small steering committee of other passionate PID advocates across the firm, I understood early on that we needed to create a program with demonstrable value if we expected it to be sustainable long term. Even the most altruistic, well-intentioned company will not continue to provide a service if they see no benefit in return. In our case, the benefit was unlikely to be monetary, so we set our sights on other ways we could create value. Externally, we looked for projects that would enable our non-profit partners and us to tell compelling stories about how architecture positively affected the trajectory of a community. I’m proud to say that Citizen HKS projects tend to outperform others in terms of media placements and website hits, coming in second only to our NFL stadiums. Internally, we’ve seen employees cite Citizen HKS as one of the “pros” of HKS on Glassdoor, and our hiring manager says that Citizen HKS is the number one thing he gets asked about when recent graduates interview. So, while it is true that Citizen HKS doesn’t generate revenue, the often elusive intangibles – brand enhancement, public relations, employee engagement, and recruitment potential – have assuredly affected our bottom line.

I think it’s important to both acknowledge the challenges as well as embrace the opportunities that traditional for-profit firms can provide in the realm of public interest design. Though I admire them greatly, I realize that we will never be a MASS Design. That doesn’t mean that HKS – and every other firm like it – can’t do well by doing good. This is becoming increasingly important as our profession addresses the social and environmental impacts of our work. As we grapple with the most pressing issues of the 21st century, it is clear that a business-as-usual approach will eventually render us obsolete. We can no longer serve the top 10% of the global population that can afford access to our services and continue to stay relevant. And therein lies the opportunity. We must demonstrate how design thinking can contribute to solving some of the world’s most systemic challenges, such as access to healthcare, equity in education, and affordab
Los Angeles Times
To our dismay, we in Los Angeles have become increasingly familiar with homelessness. But some of the things we “know” about the phenomenon are simply untrue. Dealing with the problem requires knowing the facts and dismissing the myths.

It also requires understanding why those myths persist.

Begin with the falsehood that most homeless people come from out of town, drifting here from colder climates or meaner streets in order to live a life of relative ease on L.A. sidewalks and freeway medians.

Not true. The official counts and companion studies of L.A.’s growing homeless population have consistently shown that most homeless people have lived in Los Angeles for at least 10 years. These are our longtime neighbors who were priced out of their apartments by rents that are rising faster than their incomes, or who were struck by some crisis that rendered them unable to keep a permanent roof over their heads. It may have been a job layoff, a divorce, a cataclysmic and costly health breakdown, an addiction.

The proportion of homeless in L.A. who are in fact relatively new arrivals pretty much tracks with the numbers in other big cities around the nation. Homeless people do not flock to L.A. for the sunshine.

But there are two points about supposedly newly arrived homeless that require attention. One has to do with homeless youth. Los Angeles, particularly Hollywood, has long been a destination for young people who feel shunned or mistreated by their families and leave their homes in other parts of the nation. The latest homeless count showed a troubling jump in youth homelessness, including kids from out of town. Deeper study is required to understand and respond to this phenomenon.

The second point is that some people are coming to L.A. from other parts of Southern California. As The Times recently reported, some L.A. officials are accusing neighboring municipalities of pushing their own homeless populations across city limits, dumping their problems on Los Angeles.

This is an old problem. More than a decade ago, the county’s first comprehensive response to homelessness completely fell apart because cities like West Covina and Santa Clarita would not participate and instead encouraged their homeless to go to L.A. Los Angeles itself has had a profoundly inadequate and untimely response to homelessness, but some neighboring cities have been even more irresponsible and must be held accountable.

Another homelessness myth is that most people are on the street because they are mentally ill. Again, not true — although it’s easy to see why the misunderstanding persists.

Counts and studies consistently find that between a quarter and a third of homeless people are seriously mentally ill or have serious substance abuse problems. But substance abusers and the mentally ill are the most visible face of homelessness because their behavior draws the most attention. And mental illness is more prevalent among people living on the street — and in public view — than among their homeless counterparts who are couch-surfing or living in cars or shelters.

The nation broke its promise to provide community-based care and treatment for the mentally ill following the closure of state mental hospitals beginning in the 1970s. It’s a promise that ultimately society must keep, and for which it must pay.

If we were to house all seriously mentally ill homeless people in Los Angeles (and we should), homelessness would immediately become less evident. But of the more than 100,000 people in the county who were homeless at some point last year, two-thirds were not dealing with serious mental health problems or addiction problems, but fell into homelessness because of the widening gap between wages and housing costs.

Another myth: L.A. isn’t doing anything about the problem. Also not true. The city and county housed more than 20,000 last year, including people who had fallen on economic hard times and many who could not care for themselves because of mental or physical health problems.

But it’s clearly not enough. As people were lifted out of homelessness, more fell in. The net increase was about 17 per day.

It is exasperating, and it leaves the region to wonder whether the proper next step is to double down on current solutions, or somehow change course.
United Nations Photo/Flickr., CC BY-NC-ND
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared that skyscrapers made of glass and steel “have no place in our city or our Earth anymore”. He argued that their energy inefficient design contributes to global warming and insisted that his administration would restrict glassy high-rise developments in the city.

Glass has always been an unlikely material for large buildings, because of how difficult it becomes to control temperature and glare indoors. In fact, the use of fully glazed exteriors only became possible with advances in air conditioning technology and access to cheap and abundant energy, which came about in the mid-20th century. And studies suggest that on average, carbon emissions from air conditioned offices are 60 percent higher than those from offices with natural or mechanical ventilation.

As part of my research into sustainable architecture, I have examined the use of glass in buildings throughout history. Above all, one thing is clear: if architects had paid more attention to the difficulties of building with glass, the great environmental damage wrought by modern glass skyscrapers could have been avoided.

Heat and glare
The United Nations Secretariat in New York, constructed between 1947 and 1952, was the earliest example of a fully air conditioned tower with a glass curtain wall – followed shortly afterwards by Lever House on Park Avenue. Air conditioning enabled the classic glass skyscraper to become a model for high rise office developments in cities across the world – even hot places such as Dubai and Sydney.

Yet as far back as the 19th century, horticulturists in Europe intimately understood how difficult it is to keep the temperature stable inside glass structures – the massive hot houses they built to host their collections. They wanted to maintain the hot environment needed to sustain exotic plants, and devised a large repertoire of technical solutions to do so.

Early central heating systems, which made use of steam or hot water, helped to keep the indoor atmosphere hot and humid. Glass was covered with insulation overnight to keep the warmth in, or used only on the south side together with better insulated walls, to take in and hold heat from the midday sun.

The Crystal Palace

When glass structures were transformed into spaces for human habitation, the new challenge was to keep the interior sufficiently cool. Preventing overheating in glass buildings has proven enormously difficult – even in Britain’s temperate climate. The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park – a temporary pavilion built to house the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 – was a case in point.

The Crystal Palace was the first large-scale example of a glass structure designed specifically for use by people. It was designed by Joseph Paxton, chief gardener at the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Estate, drawing on his experience constructing timber-framed glasshouses.

Though recognised as a risky idea at the time, organisers decided to host the exhibition inside a giant glasshouse in the absence of a more practical alternative. Because of its modular construction and prefabricated parts, the Crystal Palace could be put together in under ten months – perfect for the organisers’ tight deadline.

To address concerns about overheating and exposing the exhibits to too much sunlight, Paxton adopted some of the few cooling methods available at the time: shading, natural ventilation and eventually removing some sections of glass altogether. Several hundred large louvres were positioned inside the wall of the building, which had to be adjusted manually by attendants several times a day.

Despite these precautions, overheating became a major issue over the summer of 1851, and was the subject of frequent commentaries in the daily newspapers. An analysis of data recorded inside the Crystal Palace between May and October 1851 shows that the indoor temperature was extremely unstable. The building accentuated – rather than reduced – peak summer temperatures.

These challenges forced the organisers to temporarily remove large sections of glazing. This procedure was repeated several times before parts of the glazing were permanently replaced with canvas curtains, which could be opened and closed depending on how hot the sun was. When the Crystal Palace was re-erected as a popular leisure pa
In his essay “Paris Not Flooded,” Roland Barthes asks us to see the great flood of January 1955 as a creative force that erased roads and sidewalks. It forced Parisians to row to the grocer and priests to enter churches in canoes, “making disaster itself provide evidence that the world is manageable.”

If Barthes were to write “Notre-Dame Not Ablaze,” he might ask us to see the April 15 fire and its aftermath as evidence of something useful like a lesson or a sacrament. It will be a long while before that evidence is revealed in full, but the dangers of faulty wiring, a smoldering cigarette near highly combustible materials, or failed fire suppression safeguards were all causal frontrunners at press time.

French authorities, represented by the Ministry of Culture, are still assessing the damage at Notre-Dame, which is part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage site that includes the surrounding Île de la Cité and, as such, is subject to special preservation mandates. The Ministry of Culture is also receiving advice from a dedicated UNESCO team, which includes representatives from ICCROM and ICOMOS International, according to Paris-based Mechtild Rössler, director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

“Notre Dame is like a history book illustrating the evolution of the construction and different approaches to restoration over time,” says Rössler. “The UNESCO team experts were chosen by their institutions for the specific expertise required, especially in risk assessments and knowledge on conservation and rehabilitation, and they are at the disposal of the French authorities.”

President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to rebuild within five years (in time for the 2024 Olympics in Paris) elicited strong responses from several observers. Meredith Cohen, associate professor of medieval art and architecture at UCLA, called it “simplistic bravado.” Conservative pundit Anne-Elisabeth Moutet called the promise “the arrogance of an unpopular president trying for wokeness.” (To Moutet’s chagrin, Macron’s popularity gained three points between March and April, which pundits attributed to his post-fire commitment to rebuilding.) But, reading between the lines of Macron’s vague promise, the real question is how much of Notre-Dame’s recovery will be a restoration, renovation, or something else entirely, which seems to be a philosophical question as well as a technical one.

Thanks to advances in digital imaging and virtual modeling over the last decade, we know nearly everything about the measurable aspects of Notre-Dame. The late Andrew Tallon, associate professor of art at Vassar College, reportedly logged one billion data points on the structure in an extensive survey. French video game developer Ubisoft also owns a substantial cache of digital models created for its 2014 game “Assassin’s Creed: Unity.” In addition, Paris-based graphic design consultancy Art Graphique et Patrimoine (AGP) and surveyors Géomètres-Experts (GEA) partnered to model Notre-Dame in recent years; like Tallon’s scans, their measurements detail the cathedral in millimetric terms—a granular level that’s hard for the naked eye to discern, much less remember. These scans, in other words, will be critical to any future effort to rebuild any part of the cathedral.

Will Rourk, a cultural heritage data specialist at the University of Virginia (UVA) Library Scholars’ Lab, specializes in 3D documentation of artefacts and buildings using scanners and photogrammetry. He’s scanned a range of historic buildings, including Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village at UVA and Monticello, south of Charlottesville, and supplied the data to architects and preservationists to aid in reconstruction or repair. Rourk’s work centers on what he calls infomatics, or leveraging technology to record and remember structures slated for demolition or to re-create elements of them for repair work. That level of documentation, notes Rourk, used to be achieved with a ruler, a profile comb composed of metal teeth, mylar sheets, and ink pens. Now, laser scanners can create data points that combine to form point clouds and then export it all to CAD and BIM software to create 3D models. “That means that if the reconstruction of Notre-Dame was to be faithful to the original,” says Rourk, “then the data could be used to help with this reconstruction, and the efforts towards authentic recon
Wikipedia Commons
In the short history of computing, an ongoing research project is human-computer interaction (HCI). We know the results of this research as the ever-expanding catalog of input devices developed since the 1950s for interfacing with computers. A few successful and obvious ones are: the keyboard, the mouse, the trackpad, the touchscreen, the pen, and the joystick. If most of design labor today is produced with mice (and/or pens), why are there so few discussions on those instruments? In a field bombarded with debates on the digitization of design, I’ve found everyday devices to be the most fascinating, yet overlooked, subject. So in lieu of reviewing the latest touchscreen, VR controller, or AR app, I’d like to talk briefly about mice and pens.

When it comes to drawing on a computer, designers are quite comfortable with these two instruments. They are tools that embody an elegant balance of ergonomics, precision, and intuition. The mouse, with its hand-cradling design, is by far the most common. It can be manufactured cheaply and has an average of three buttons. The pen, on the other hand, is not as ubiquitous. It is often expensive due to its pressure sensors, and it requires a compatible surface. But this was not always the case. Though we typically associate the mouse with personal computing, it was the pen that paved the way for dynamic interfaces.

The computer mouse was invented at the Stanford Research Institute between 1963 and 1964, and it was debuted in 1968 at what is now referred to as “The Mother of All Demos.” This event introduced the world to an interactive screen and its possibilities: word processing, file storage, and graphics. The mouse was a central component as it allowed the demonstrator and research director, Douglas Engelbart, to move around the 2-dimensional, X-Y plane of the screen seamlessly. Most of the demonstration was, of course, slow and glitchy, but the reason for its matriarchal label is simple: many of the highlighted behaviors are still in use today. We type text on word processors, navigate from window to window, and mouse movements still correspond to X-Y coordinates.

Before the mouse, however, there was the pen; and before the pen there was the gun. This is largely because the pursuit of drawing on a lit screen was first taken up, unsurprisingly, by the military. Project Whirlwind, a 1945 Department of Defense research project conducted at MIT, would gain notoriety in the history of computing for its pioneering work on computer memory and real-time processing, but it was also responsible for developing the first handheld computer-screen interfacing device: the light gun. Though much of the focus was on the design of a physical computer, the Whirlwind machine itself required a means to interact with the operator. The solution was a large, round cathode ray tube (CRT) screen with a handheld electron gun (think: a precursor to Nintendo’s 1984 game Duck Hunt).

A light gun works like this: it contains a light sensor which, when pointed at a CRT, generates a signal each time the electron beam raster passes by the spot the tip of the gun is pointing at. The point is then stored in the computer’s memory and can be retrieved at any time. If a dot on the screen represents an airplane, the gun can retrieve data about that object. The gun eventually morphed into a pen, a much more benign accessory. The pen invited one to draw—rather than target—objects. This would in turn provide the framework for Ivan Sutherland to develop Sketchpad, the first CAD program, which used the pen as the core input device. After Sutherland and Engelbart, the history of mice and pens is a bit more familiar. Apple and Microsoft enter the picture and mice become household items, while pens are adopted by the professional graphics industry.

But this abridged story of mice and pens sheds little light on their physiological effects. These devices are as much a part of our emerging digital behaviors as the images on our screens. The sheer variety of ergonomic designs and accessories available to treat side-effects of their daily usage signals their very real imprint on our physical bodies.

Consider the photographs taken by Howard Schatz at the 2000 Olympics. Here professional athletes are placed side by side and one can easily see the effects of physiological specialization. While designers may not have an optimized body type, I know plenty of them with
Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
A sympathetic view of the city might be the healthiest way to shape—and preserve—the built environment

Perhaps it’s New York City’s ability to transform itself so rapidly that makes those of us who love it so sensitive to the restaurant that closes, the hardware shop that shutters, or the building that comes down. Too often their replacements—shiny, new, shop-ified—seem to lack soul. For all its acclaimed verticality, Hudson Yards has drawn criticism that it isn’t much more than a glorified mall. CBGB decayed and was reborn as a John Varvatos boutique. Alphabet City has a Target. In Downtown Brooklyn, a skyscraper just went up complete with a rooftop pool. (Admittedly, the view is spectacular.) But even among those of us who appreciate convenience and style, there’s a wistfulness for the bygone Bohemian grit that emanated from certain neighborhoods.

The response to these overly polished, sterilized cityscapes is driving a new wave of urban nostalgia. Two recent New York Times features—one on capturing every block in the city in the 1980s, another recollecting the demolition of Penn Station—embody everything there is to love about seasoned urban architecture, especially as we see it disappearing. And then there is Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York blog, “a bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct,” run by Jeremiah Moss.

Often nostalgia “gets a bad rap in our future-fetishistic current culture,” says Moss, a psychoanalyst who also authored the book Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul. But sentimentality may be healthy, he says. Empathic people tend to be less afraid of their own mortality, which he equates to this type of yearning. “People who do feel anxious about death tend to be bigger consumers—shopping and eating can soothe that anxiety.”

In his 2017 book, Moss (who writes under a pen name) predicted that Hudson Yards would be “a dreamworld of exclusion,” with rarified zombie shoppers Instagramming their way through a set of global clichés. He worries that urban landscapes—particularly public spaces—are becoming increasingly homogenized, overly tidy, and heavily commodified, leaving less room than ever for the unexpected qualities and encounters that generate a sense of place, those interactions that Jane Jacobs eloquently called a “sidewalk ballet.” That our eyes are glued to our smartphones while we walk through them probably doesn’t help.

These are streets built for super-consumers, says Moss, and our pristine, new buildings literally and figuratively reflect us. On the other hand, he says, old, weathered buildings “remind us that we are mortal [and] vulnerable.” Demolishing brick and stone and replacing them with glass boxes, argues Moss, is a way of denying that vulnerability.

There have been other waypoints along the recent timeline of New York’s architectural nostalgia. The demolition of Penn Station in the mid-1960s has left many of us forever pining for McKim, Mead & White’s elegant arches and columns (even if the building had become decrepit and dysfunctional). The next two decades also dramatically changed neighborhoods and the city skyline. As municipal policies moved away from social democracy and increasingly incentivized corporate welfare and tourism, an era of gentrification began. (Hello, Trump Tower!) By the early aughts, New York itself was declared a “luxury product.”

By then, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had left another indelible mark on our collective psychology. Suddenly, the entire country was nostalgic for the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, while New Yorkers began dissecting their emotional and physical relationships to the urban fabric.

Emily Hagopian
In under-resourced communities, the disproportionate investment in infrastructure for our punitive justice system illustrates how the built environment embodies many of our society’s gross inequities—but architects can help change this paradigm.

The reimagining of prisons and jails is a task in which the firm I co-founded with Kyle Rawlins is often asked to participate—and one that is a misguided use of our time and energy. In the last decade, books such as Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow (The New Press, 2010) and social justice movements like Black Lives Matter have helped to raise the country’s consciousness around mass incarceration and push us into an age of criminal justice reform. Though our country still has the world’s highest incarceration rate, jail admission rates have dropped by 25 percent since 2008, and national prison admission rates have come down by 24 percent since 2006, according to the 2018 Vera Institute of Justice report “The New Dynamics of Mass Incarceration.”

With the movement toward decarceration set in motion, we will need to address a series of pressing issues, including the planning and building of infrastructure, such as housing, in underinvested communities to which citizens are returning; the need to cultivate restorative reinvestments in these communities; and the adaptive reuse of defunct and vacant criminal justice infrastructure in our city centers and rural lands.

Policy Implications on the Built Environment
Little thought has been given to the role that the built environment plays in supporting the success of criminal justice policy changes and programs created to support decarceration. In California, for example, Assembly Bill 109, which supports early release from jail, and Proposition 47, which reduces penalties for certain lower-level drug and property offenses, have led to more citizens returning to their communities amid gentrification and—in cities like San Francisco and Oakland—a housing crisis. The scarcity of affordable housing have an already challenging transition back into society nearly impossible.

My firm is working with local black churches in Oakland, Calif., to transform their assets into re-entry infrastructure for released prisoners. For example, we’re turning a charter school building owned by the Center of Hope Community Church into the Hope Re-Entry Campus. There, up to 40 individuals will have access to job training, a place to spend time with families, and therapeutic resources as they find full-time employment and the necessary permanent housing to stay out of prison.

Obsolete Criminal Justice Infrastructure
The move to decarceration has led accordingly to closures of detention facilities. From 2011 to 2016, 94 state prisons and juvenile facilities were closed or announced imminent closure in more than 20 states, according to the Sentencing Project's 2016 report “Repurposing: New Beginnings for Closed Prisons.” New strategies for repositioning these facilities are required. For example, the population of the Atlanta City Detention Center has dropped from 1,314 detainees to about 100. Yet the nearly empty building still costs about $33 million annually to operate. Community activist groups, including the Racial Justice Action Center and Women on the Rise, are garnering local support to transform the structure into a center for freedom and wellness while advocating for policy shifts to release the remaining 100 detainees.

When facilities are not repurposed efficiently, they can lead to safety, public health, and economic concerns in the surrounding neighborhoods, with taxpayers footing the bill to cover their substantial operating costs. Or worse yet, the facilities may reopen as places of incarceration with the opportunity for restorative development lost.

"When facilities are not repurposed efficiently, they can lead to safety, public health, and economic concerns in the surrounding neighborhoods, with taxpayers footing the bill to cover their substantial operating costs. Or worse yet, the facilities may reopen as places of incarceration with the opportunity for restorative development lost."
Building Design + Construction
Generation Z learns and connects in unique ways. As they move from higher ed to the workplace, companies that depend on the productivity of a youthful workforce should take note.

I came to Hanbury in 2017, after designing and managing workplace interiors projects for more than a decade. So naturally, I've observed the higher ed students we design for through a slightly different lens—not just as students but as the next generation of knowledge workers. I can't help but think of how their unique behaviors and preferences will shape the workplaces to come.

Generation Z is heavily influenced by technology. Technology, although cultivating broad social and cultural connections through social networks, also sometimes creates isolation. In the learning environment, face to face interaction is key in developing a sense of commonality, purpose and learning. Collective learning, where students are taught to learn through group engagement helps to create a sense of community and adds to diversity of thought and experience. In keeping with this trend in the education sector, collaboration has also become the preferred method of working. Physical engagement and the "making of things" has become the foundation of educational process. Students gather with their peers in groups ranging from clusters of three to five and sometimes larger. When in large group learning, the group sizes ebb and flow as members break off into clusters to focus and engage, creating spontaneous interactions and opportunities for engagement, periodically rejoining the larger group for discussion.

Spaces that support this transitional collaboration require flexibility to turn large spaces into small spaces, and to connect small spaces into larger spaces. These amorphous spaces work best as casual environments that empower people to move and use furniture in ways that suit their particular needs at that moment.

Companies should consider furnishing office workspace with groupings of comfortable and easily movable pieces that can accommodate both smaller clusters and large groups. These spaces should also have plenty of opportunities to plug in as these gatherings often gravitate to where power is available. Depending on the nature of the work, places where clusters of people can mock up, prototype, and test their ideas might also be useful.

The education environment today is both physical and virtual. In universities today, I would wager that most students would consider YouTube as their secondary learning environment. Online classes and supplemented learning is increasingly common. Recent graduates are accustomed to taking their digital preferences and work progress with them from device to device, from office to car to home. Due to easy access to digital information, continual learning and augmented learning of class material outside the classroom is the norm. Just as students are learning everywhere, the young knowledge worker will have a fluid relationship with where work is done and information is acquired.

The cloud and the Internet of Things (IOT) are increasingly important to young workers. Hoteling desks feel instantly personalized when lighting, chairs and other connected devices automatically adjust to their pre-set preferences. As technology continues to improve, interconnected devices that read one's preferences, condition, location and interest will become ubiquitous in the work and home environment. Access to information from different devices and sources, untethered to a physical space, creates new opportunities for learning.

Turning inward for reflection, alone time and even recreation is part of the Gen Z culture. In large open spaces, students use headphones and goggle monitors (for Augmented Reality) to provide private focus in public environments, either for work or play. While accommodating the gaming preferences of young staffers may not be appropriate in a work setting, privacy is important. Small spaces separated by glass provide privacy and noise reduction while allowing a visual connection to what is happening in the collaborative spaces.

Work life balance is a driving force for Generation Z. The office is looked at as a place to gain autonomy, learning, social engagement and purpose. The trend to create spaces of play is being substituted with places of creativity, where making things and collaboration are promoted. Corporate recreation lounges of today may become less and less attractive as younger employees look to their offices a
Pablo Enriquez
Few occupations require as rigorous a set of academic courses and professional exams while promising so little by way of remuneration as architecture. And, for early-career architects, salaries can be precarious—and in some cases nonexistent—while emerging designers chase dream commissions, and prioritize prestige over pay when taking jobs.

Recent questions about the internship practices of this year’s Serpentine Gallery pavilion winner, Junya Ishigami, have again brought the topic of competition compensation to the fore. Shortly after the February announcement of Ishigami’s selection, designer Adam Nathaniel Furman circulated an image purporting to be a screenshot of an e-mail soliciting unpaid work at the firm. Although Ishigami’s office could not be reached for comment, the Serpentine Gallery later issued a statement requiring Ishigami to pay all those working on his commission for the annual summer pavilion. (The same issue arose in 2013 when fellow Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto won the Serpentine commission.)

In the United States, unpaid work is illegal. Federal law prohibits employment without a minimum wage, which varies from state to state, but student internships offer a loophole, allowing non-employee interns to receive on-the-job training or school credit in lieu of payment.

The AIA’s official stance on internship payment is as hard to pin down as its exact definition of an intern. “If you, as an AIA member, want to run for office or want to submit a project or your firm for an honor or award, you have to state that you do not employ, or have not employed, working students or unpaid interns,” said AIA deputy general counsel Terence F. Canela in a video for the organization. Beyond that, the AIA’s Code of Ethics requires its members to follow federal laws, which are murky on the subject at best.

Design competitions also remain a complex realm within the profession. Many offer more in the way of prestige and recognition than they do in prize money. Some open competitions are criticized for soliciting thousands of hours of design work with pay reserved for a small group of finalists. Other invited competitions offer build budgets and travel stipends, but leave employee overhead to be covered by the firms.

There’s no doubt in the mind of 2017 Young Architects Program (YAP) winner Jenny Sabin that designing Lumen for MoMA PS1’s annual summer pavilion is one of the biggest highlights of her career. According to the museum’s press office, the year Sabin won, the YAP began offering finalists $5,000 to develop their designs and produce an exhibition model; the ultimate winner receives an additional $15,000 toward design development, and $100,000 for build-out. But even with those designated funds, Sabin says that “part of the creative maneuvering of producing the design is finding ways to bolster the budget in support of the project.” YAP winners are not allowed to fund-raise, but “there are ways of thinking creatively around the budget,” Sabin tells record. “You have to organize a team of professionals, such as structural engineers and contractors, and because of the size of their companies, many of those people are able to do pro bono work.”

A relative newcomer on the American competition circuit originated with Exhibit Columbus, the annual program in Columbus, Indiana, celebrating art, architecture, and community. Named for the philanthropists who helped shape the city’s notable architectural legacy (in 30 square miles, one can find works by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, Kevin Roche, I.M. Pei, and others) and meant to encourage the next generation of architectural creativity, the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize offers $70,000 build budgets to each of five winners. But Richard McCoy, who is director of Landmark Columbus, the organization behind the Exhibit Columbus program, admits that organizers have never verified a firm’s accounting for Miller Prize–winning projects. “We offer to help the winners find local fabricators and people to build or work with them, and we’ve had a tremendous amount of in-kind donations to all of the installations,” McCoy tells record. “But I also recognize that some studios don’t view this as a profitable enterprise,” he adds. “They all do it for the love of the art, and because it’s a chance to experiment in an interesting context.”

While, generally,
Wikipedia Commons
The tragedy that struck one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved landmarks offers France a chance to heal after months of civil unrest. As with any unfortunate event, sympathy from a horrified world will be followed by prognostications over issues surrounding the fire and its aftermath. Foremost among these will be approaches to restoring the missing historic elements that now lie in rubble on the floor of the cathedral.

I have spent my professional life working in building conservation and architectural history, with particular expertise in historic religious buildings. Like many churches, Notre-Dame has seen its congregation change during the past 50 years and has faced fundraising challenges in procuring necessary funds for maintenance and restoration. The fire that nearly destroyed the church was most likely caused by construction activity near Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s cast-iron spire at the center of the transept. The irony of this will not be lost on those familiar with medieval restoration, or with 19th century construction.

Viollet-le-Duc (1814–1879) invented modern restoration—both theory and practice. His first laboratory was Notre-Dame de Paris, and he spent virtually his entire professional life studying the cathedral and restoring it. Indeed, everything he added, subtracted, or restored is documented in extensive records and writings. Nothing he built at Notre-Dame was as controversial, or as beloved, as the 180-foot spire that fell last Monday. The cathedral had no spire when he began work in 1844 (the previous one had been removed in 1786). It also had no lead gutters and leaders, no gargoyle scuppers, and no metal transept statues. These modern improvements were entirely conceived and designed by France’s 19th century restoration genius.

Viollet-le-Duc has both champions and detractors in the French conservation community. Among architects, his name is often associated with both “rationalism” and “historicism,” contrasting ideals in modern architecture. There should be no doubt about French ambivalence toward the eventual restoration of not only his spire, but also roof construction above the historic timber rafters that burned last week. Still, the abrupt announcement of an architectural competition for designs to replace the spire was a surprise to many who see the existing fabric as sacrosanct. Like President Emmanuel Macron’s hasty promise to restore the building in five years, the announcement does not bode well for a satisfactory restoration effort.

French architects are among the most technology-obsessed designers in the world, and therefore are not likely to favor by-the-book restoration of all historic materials and elements. Paradoxically, France also has some of the best government restoration organizations, and many of the finest building craftsmen in Europe. Many restoration specialists are trained by Les Compagnons du Devoir, a trade and education organization founded by Pierre de Coubertin at the beginning of the 20th century. Hand skills and artisanal knowledge are highly valued.

These facts make conflicts between government, the architectural profession, and the restoration trade community inevitable. Observers from countries like England and Germany are already offering advice on how to address some of the contentious issues, but there is no culture quite like French culture when it comes to parochial things like heritage. Preserving la grande patrimoine is a sacred cause, but one that Parisians argue about incessantly. The nation will not rally behind a straightforward restoration program, as England did after fires at Hampton Court and Windsor Castle. With contributions coming from the fashion industry, any solution will have to be à la mode.

Still, there is a historical imperative at work that favors the retention of elements that are essential to the history of modern restoration, as practiced by its most influential architect. Viollet-le-Duc’s work at Notre-Dame is as significant in its own right as anything built there during the 12th and 13th centuries. Hearing the mayor of Paris talk of a new spire is deeply troubling to all who understand this fact. Even more troubling are articles by ill-informed critics such as Aaron Betsky, who argue for a rethink of the entire building. As a UNESCO heritage site, the cathedral of Notre-Dame must be treated not only as a Parisian landmark, but also as a
Common Edge
ast month in Peru, as my partner and I ascended a grassy knoll toward a misty window of what is known as the “classic view” of the Incan citadel, our cusqueño guide, Nick, asked, “What do you think is older, Machu Picchu or the Notre-Dame in Paris?”

“Machu Picchu,” we answered.

Of course, we thought: Surely the exposed walls and strewn boulders of Machu Picchu, one of the world’s seven wonders, were more aged than the colossal columns of yellowed stone where chiseled gargoyles and copper-green saints alike stand protective. Of course, Nick was ready to point out, this was everybody’s answer, and this same collective wisdom is wrong: Construction on Notre-Dame started in 1160; Machu Picchu was built around 1450. The heart of Paris, Notre-Dame, our lady, the Gothic cathedral on Ile de la Cité overlooking the Seine, grand and sculpted as she is, is three centuries older than the block-by-block urban constructions of the Incan empire.

In the following weeks I would ask my friends the same question; everyone was surprised by the age of the elegant French dame. She hovered in my mind like a priceless piece of trivia—until last week, when she burned.

I lived in Paris, on and off, for three years. It is where friends would find me when school ended, when I needed to earn money, when my heart broke, when I wanted to fall in love again, when my family in Singapore didn’t want to open their doors.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what Paris means to me, as someone who doesn’t have a stable home. It has a lot to do with how the Parisians knelt and sang “Hail Mary” and “Ava Maria” when the cathedral burned, their faces aglow in horror and in love, both incandescent.

I’ve always known the French to have a fondness for their country, and each other, and the tactile monuments and numerous sublime moments that consecrate this fraternité.

I remember it in how the Parisians sang when I watched them play in the Stade de France at the Euro Cup in 2016. I had purchased my own flight and tickets to the game as a present to myself, a reward for graduating from college, a promise kept to my younger, freshman self, who vowed to visit the quadrennial soccer tournament upon earning that degree. But it wasn’t just the stadium that shook: On the way to the stadium, everyone on le Métro was painting each other’s faces, drumming the national anthem on metal poles, giving each other kisses. Strangers would speak to me in French; lay blue, red and white garlands on my neck; stick temporary tattoos on my skin, sealed by their hot, excited palms. At every stop, when newcomers arrived, we would rally and serenade them with song. It became a continuous initiation.

I’ve come to associate it with how, on Bastille Day, the French would flow onto the streets like a river—everyone on the same slow, insouciant current toward the Eiffel Tower, where, at sundown, fireworks would sparkle and wane to the tune of La Marseillaises, the French national anthem.

I’ve always joked that it was the only national anthem I knew how to sing. I had somehow forgotten my own.

The French are often associated with a kind of nationalism, but what’s surprising to me is how open-source it seems, that everyone can seemingly subscribe to it. It’s why so many French families in Paris and Lyon and Bourg-en-Bresse have opened up their homes to me on random moments in my life, why I know so many women—from the Philippines to the Ivory Coast to Syria to Kurdistan—who come to seek shelter here, why we found friendship and community in each other.

When Notre-Dame burned, so many of us saw a remote part of ourselves surface and smolder away. For me, it was the memory of a busker singing “Imagine” in front of the bell towers on my 20th birthday, when I was with a French man I had met that day, who drove me from the outskirts of Paris into the city to see this sight; it was when I worked as an au pair three years later and would sit in those pews as reprieve after dropping off three rowdy French children at the local piscine (swimming pool); it was when I was lonely at night and would sit on the bank of the Seine, lit up by her towering majesty, shrouded in a painless solitude; it was when I hadn’t spoken to anyone in a while, but would wander inside to listen to the choir and organ and feel comforted by the bellowing noise, the la
Andrea Izzotti
How faithful should we be to the 19th-century version of the cathedral we love?

How should we rebuild Notre Dame? The answer should seem simple: exactly as it was. Like all buildings that have some age on them, however, the Church of Our Lady in Paris is not exactly a virgin, and figuring out what and how to restore a building that has seen bouts of construction for over six centuries is an open question. Most notably, the part (the roof and spire) that burned down on April 15 was mainly the (re)creation of medieval ideas as imagined by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1844.

Luckily, the French authorities are more on the ball than most critics and commentators, most of whom have conveniently left the malleability of the originality of this particular building out of their laments. The Culture Ministry has already announced an international competition to reconstruct or replace Viollet-le-Duc’s spire and roof, which most people assume has been there since the Middle Ages. Whether or not that initiative will truly open itself up to anything but a redo of what has been, in the last century-and-a-half, an integral part of how we perceive Notre Dame, remains to be seen.

Notre Dame was, because of its place in France and French culture, without any doubt the most important descendent of Abbé Suger’s Gothic prototype, Saint-Denis. The semi-mythical inventor of the French Gothic might have inspired more elegant churches, and some of them certainly conform more closely to what we know were his intentions, but the sheer scale and the position of Notre Dame makes it the emblem of that style.

The cathedral’s exterior is, to be honest, not nearly as impressive as its interior. The two towers of the “westwork,” or entrance façade, are not symmetrical and never received their spires. It is the statuary that gives them their character. Most of the church’s body is visible only in glimpses from afar or close. Its most coherent proclamation of faith is that 300-foot-tall spire, Viollet-le-Duc’s re-creation of the original, based both on records and on parallels in other churches. Viollet-le-Duc was also responsible for the reconstruction of the wood roof and the sacristy.

It is the cathedral’s interior that really soars, and that has largely survived the fire. To my surprise, even the stained glass, including the glorious rose window to the east, appear to be largely intact. Most of the bronze statues had also been removed for restoration. In fact, I wonder why there are estimates that the work might cost over a billion euros, as “all” that was destroyed was that superstructure (there is also some damage from the roof falling in over the nave).

The bigger discussion, then, is about what should be reconstructed, how, and why. Most of the medieval and renaissance-era cathedrals we see today are either largely 19th-century re-creations or collages of building campaigns from various eras. While the re-creations or extrapolations—Cologne Cathedral being the most notable—have the advantage of creating a unified impression, the places of worship that have been built up over the centuries have the advantage of offering a variety of different experiences and perspectives on faith and communal devotion. Even Cologne now has a very effective stained-glass addition created by the living artist Gerhard Richter.

If the choice is to either re-create Viollet-le-Duc’s channeling of Suger, or to try to go back, using current science and archival research, to do so in an even more “correct” manner, the main question is whether we should stop there, or try to do a better job not only in reconstructing the roof, but also in finishing the twin towers and other elements of the medieval design (at least as far as we can know it).

If the choice, on the other hand, is to invent something new, what should that be? The internet has filled up with the usual jokes, memes, and half-serious visions that range from domes to a statue of our current Madonna (Ciccone) replacing the spire. I am not sure what a 21st-century spire and roof would look like but know that it would have to both avoid copying and a sense of being an alien object dropped into a well-worn and well-honed icon. The trick would be to figure out what is essential about Suger’s principles and style, and then find a way to realize those ideas and forms without directly copying the copy that was there.

But we also have to ask what not only Catholicism but the notion of
Wikipedia Commons
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.’” Those tabernacles were the best way that St. Peter could fully express his love of Jesus, but they were just another human stab at loving God, and went unbuilt.

I am touring St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome when word arrives about the fire at Notre-Dame. Here, in the place of Peter’s crucifixion, we learn that another tabernacle has been gutted by fire, that Paris’ greatest sacred building is as fragile as any of its makers. Our guide has a Ph.D. in antiquities and is a devout Catholic. She’s devastated by the loss. Her deep knowledge of religion and history is expressed in the sharing of the endless, intricate realities of man’s conquest of materials and theology at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Meanwhile, a friend monitors Notre-Dame’s incineration: “The windows are gone, the roof is gone, only a few firefighters were there in 10 minutes, and it took an hour for the rest to arrive. An hour.” She is bereft.

But humans made Notre-Dame. They kept it alive and functional, and traveled there in droves, for hundreds of years, to revel in its triumph over the randomness of earth. Whether everyone who visits Notre-Dame or St. Peter’s knows it or not—or even believes it (or not)—the creation of these buildings are celebrations of our gifts to God.

In those uncounted number of efforts, one of those tasks was repair of the roof. This likely means that molten lead was left somewhere, too hot for too long. What was used to keep the rainwater out of Notre Dame Cathedral may have set its dry, ancient roof timbers ablaze.

Thousands of humans built Notre-Dame. One of them may have doomed it. Until we fix it, again. And we will—because we can.

Every building fails over time, just like every human. The love of God that becomes present in the work I do is without beginning or end. It just is. We want to build our devotion and then love what we have built. But faith is not a building. St. Peter was vetoed when he tried to build those tabernacles, but he helped build a place for Grace in the world that lives long after he is dead. What 2,000 years has built will still be there tomorrow, after every devastation.

We all want to be the architects of our lives and rely on what we create to manifest what we will be. We try very hard to build timeless realities. But knowing how to do things often has precious little to do with what we control in our lives.

I am a state-designated “Historic Architect” and the 25-year property chair of an 1816 church, and I have worked on a number of religious buildings every year for the last 40 years. At countless meetings at these places of worship, I say that every care must be taken in every aspect of building to the glory of God, and people nod their head. But when I say that if these buildings are gone tomorrow, that they are just things, and that God is what lives—not our constructions—it’s disturbing to just about everyone in the room. Like Peter, we want to build tabernacles.

Faith in things has a shelf life. The religious faith that I do have is fully detached from professional dedications: my life is there, whether I think I earned it, made it, deserve it, or not. What we build is just here and now, until it is gone, until we are gone.

Each of our lives ends, but the reality of faith is fully personal. In the creation of who we are, it is often a prosaic checklist of achievements and setbacks. But the centuries-long task of creating a place based on faith is itself a wrestling match between the secular and the sacred. A bit like faith itself.

Beyond historic preservation as a devotion in architecture, the extension of faith in God into the embodiment of a building, especially this one, is daunting and tricky on many levels. We trust that the flying buttresses of career, love, and worth will make all this construction here, now, worth it. But none of it earns any love, no matter how joyous our expression is.

All buildings end. All people end. The unending truth of God in our lives is nothing we can construct. It is already there.

Now, let’s rebuild Notre-Dame.
Mark Lennihan/AP
Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

Since its official unveiling last month, critics have been teeing off on Hudson Yards, the $25 billion office-and-apartment megaproject on Manhattan’s West Side. The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright calls it “bargain-basement building-by-the-yard stuff that would feel more at home in the second-tier city of a developing economy.” In Curbed, Alexandra Lange writes that it suffers from “no contrast. No weirdness, no wildness, nothing off book.” The New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman describes it as a “vast neoliberal Zion.”

“New York politics and real estate are notoriously akin to Rashomon,” reads Kimmelman’s review. “Any verdict on an undertaking as costly and complex as Hudson Yards depends on one’s perspective.”

Views abound, sure, but so far, nobody seems to like what they see when they look at Hudson Yards. The project has managed to do something unique: unite all New Yorkers in a vernal equinox of acid contempt. Early reviews offer a litany of contrasts, with the development’s garish geometry and dull placelessness earning rebuke in equal measure. That’s before considering how certain features, particularly Thomas Heatherwick’s oft-derided shawarma-shaped bucket, square with other projects as “bellwethers pointing to exactly where our cities are going awry.”

However, among all the many reasons to feel salty about Hudson Yards, one perspective may deserve a place of privilege: the view from Harlem. Without their knowledge, the residents of a number of public housing developments helped to make Hudson Yards possible. The mega-luxury of this mini-Dubai was financed in part through a program that was supposed to help alleviate urban poverty. Hudson Yards ate Harlem’s lunch.

Specifically, the project raised at least $1.2 billion of its financing through a controversial investor visa program known as EB-5. This program enables immigrants to secure visas in exchange for real estate investments. Foreigners who pump between $500,000 and $1 million into U.S. real estate projects can purchase visas for their families, making it a favorite for wealthy families abroad, namely in China. EB-5 is supposed to be a way to jumpstart investment in remote rural areas, or distressed urban ones.

Hudson Yards, of course, is nobody’s idea of distressed. Located at the source of New York’s High Line, it’s the most expensive real-estate project in U.S. history. It could not possibly qualify as distressed under the terms of the program, or any understanding of the word. In order to buy EB-5 visas at the lower rate ($500,000), immigrant investors must put their money behind projects in areas with high unemployment—a proxy for need.

Manhattan’s West Side may not suffer for lack of opportunity, but, as Kimmelman notes, New York real estate is a realm for Kurosawa-esque visionaries. The Related Companies, the developer behind Hudson Yards, raked in at least $1.2 billion in EB-5 funds for this project. To qualify, Related needed a work-around to bypass the distressed-area requirements—a pass that New York authorities were happy to issue.
Aaron Betsky says that Craig Hodgetts’ writings remind us how to make architecture for today and tomorrow.

We stand on the threshold of a post-organic landscape we already know but cannot see, with induction hums instead of mechanical rattles, the secret interiors of solid-state diodes instead of the livid glow of the vacuum tube, the seamless box instead of the bottled contraption.

With that image of a future in which communications and computing technology would bring about a world of iPhones and crystal city skyscrapers, streamlined forms from grips to cars to cities, and a mysterious interconnection of energy that binds all that and us together, the architect Craig Hodgetts, FAIA—writing way back in 1970—pretty accurately predicted the reality we inhabit today. He might not have foreseen the remaining messiness and the ephemeral quality that the digital turn and the emergence of a hyper-object world has created, but he did understand that we would indeed, as the title of his essay indicates, live in a “Synthetic Landscape.”

The observation is one the hyper-productive author, editor, and section head at Ohio State University’s Knowlton School, Todd Gannon, AIA, has collected in an array of Hodgetts' writing entitled Swimming to Suburbia and Other Essays, published by ORO Editions in 2018. (Full disclosure: I once worked for Hodgetts and his wife and partner, Hsinming Fung, FAIA, and they have remained close friends.)

Born in Cincinnati, Hodgetts has spent most of his life being the Los Angeles-based and -inspired bad boy of architecture. Trained first as an automotive designer and then as an architect at Yale—where he came under the sway of the architect he still admires most, James Stirling—Hodgetts remained fascinated by cars, gizmos, and tools. But he was equally in love with movies, cartoons, and anything science fiction, letting those extra-architectural visions inspire his work as much as his thorough knowledge of both the technology of building and its history. While pursuing commissions, first with Robert Mangurian as Studio Works, and then with Fung as Hodgetts + Fung Architects (which recently merged into Seattle-based Mithun), he kept producing a stream of ideas and stories, including several movie scripts and set designs, while teaching at schools such as CalArts, SCI-Arc, and UCLA.

In all of this work, Hodgetts has kept arguing for an approach to architecture that is both pragmatic and narrative. As he said in the essay “Object Lesson: Four Short-End Views” for ARCHITECT’s predecessor Progressive Architecture in 1973 and collected in this volume:

The pragmatist employs one set of objects to ventilate the space, another to light it, and a third to fill it with atmospheric sound with the proper reverberation time. His buildings have the erasable qualities of magnetic tape. Always adjusting image to content, configuration to information flow, his buildings are conceived as a field of environmental controls, supporting a range of activities in a loose-fitting matrix, rather than fitting a single activity into a customized mold. The luxury of exclusively formal constraints, like the luxury of couturier clothing, is only for those who can afford it.
Sam Valentine
It was certainly what I had come for: I was sitting on broad, cobbled steps, watching people interact in the public realm. It was an August afternoon in Cuba, and I had found temporary respite from the harsh sun beneath a haphazard array of trees. My design work as a landscape architect focuses on urban parks, streetscapes, and academic campuses, and I wanted to see how differently the open spaces of Cuba might function.

Something about the scene immediately reminded me of Kevin Lynch, the great urban planner and theorist best known for his influential 1960 book, The Image of the City. A half-decade before that sun-drenched afternoon, I was just starting to manage projects for the first time, so it seemed like a diversion to be rummaging through the contents of a dead man’s filing cabinet. At the end of his life, Lynch’s various manuscripts, papers, and sketches were bequeathed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they are now housed in an archive. My boss, principal of Richard Burck Associates, was interested in Lynch’s theories of urban perception and how they might overlap with the legacies of landscape design. As a result, I was tasked with flipping through nearly every page of the Lynch archives, taking notes, and filling out a multitude of reproduction-request forms.

One loose photograph in Box #8 stood out. Neither the location nor the photographer is documented, but the significance of the image leaps from the print. Two human forms—perhaps day laborers, college students, or drunks—lie supine in the small island of shade cast by a young tree in an otherwise open lawn. Reading as clearly as a diagram, the image captures landscape inhabitants seeking refuge from the beating sun, and the clarity of this snapshot lodged itself in my mind.

Then, in the summer of 2016, I arrived in Havana, Cuba. Land of Russian missiles and classic American cars. Cold wars and cold shoulders. An embargo of goods and of people, consequently, frozen in time. As an estadounidense entering Cuba for the first time, I became aware of the cultural baggage I was carrying and quickly saw it slough off. From the immigration desk forward, I did not encounter a trace of this forewarned coldness. Cuba was all warmth in its sincerity of smiles and the height of its mercury.

For 10 days I followed the scenic loop I had plotted through the island’s countryside villages, traveling by foot, bus, modern taxi, and, of course, Cuba’s famed almendrones, which were just as muscular, colorful, and bondo-ed together as my guidebook had promised. The trip was by no means long enough, but across the provinces of Matanzas, Villa Clara, Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, and La Habana I was able to see urban and rural; beaches, farm fields, and mountains; and streets flanked with a contradiction of modern buildings and famed colonial architecture.

At the time I traveled, U.S. citizens were enjoying a brief window during which we were permitted to conduct self-guided research trips to Cuba, but the preparation of certain bureaucratic paperwork was technically required. Ostensibly, I was in the country to “research, on a full-time basis, unique Cuban approaches to landscape architectural design of parks and public squares.” As I sweat through my new guayabera, this notarized statement I kept on my person was not far from the truth. I spent hours observing the many ways in which Cuba’s streets, squares, and promenades were being used. Around noon one day, I had an embarrassingly late epiphany under the blazing sun.
Erica Thompson/Images for a Lifetime
Use of Native American symbols, knowledge, and practices pervades throughout the building, entertainment, and media industries, and more. Here's why it needs to stop.

Cultural appropriation is the use of another culture’s symbols, knowledge, or practices without understanding or respecting their meaning or context—regardless of intent. “Regardless of intent” is key because with my culture, Native American, many people believe that because they do not intend any disrespect and, in fact, are blatantly proclaiming respect in their appropriation, that makes it OK.

It doesn’t.

Wearing a headdress for a photoshoot or an advertisement when you are not a tribal chief or even a tribal member is cultural appropriation—period. Getting a tattoo with another culture’s language, patterning, or imagery is cultural appropriation—period. It doesn’t matter that it is done out of “deep respect.”

This applies to architecture as well.

In media and entertainment, Native Americans are portrayed as historical and stereotypical characters. Rarely are modern Natives shown as whom we are today: doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, and, yes, architects. The number of Native American architects is still small, but it’s growing. The American Indian Council of Architects and Engineers (AICAE) is attempting to establish a list of licensed architects who are enrolled members of a tribe. The number is thought to be fewer than 50. Of those who have Native American lineage but are not enrolled in a tribe, the number is probably around 300. This does not include those who have only discovered their native connection through DNA testing and now claim native heritage.

Native American architects are relatively new to the architectural world in the “official” sense. In 1967, Louis Weller became the first licensed Native American architect. A Cherokee and Caddo, Louis was most known for his work as the project manager for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. In 1994, the first Native American woman became licensed, and I’m proud to say it was me. I am a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation from Pine Ridge, S.D.

However, Native Americans were the first architects in the Americas. Since time immemorial, we have been designing and building structures—structures that were unique to the climate, culture, and lifestyle of the hundreds of individual tribal nations that existed prior to colonization.

Until recently, most architecture for tribal nations has been by non-native architects; as a result, the interpretation of the culture has often not been accurate. Across America, modern-day buildings take the form of eagles, tipis, turtles, and buffalo in superficial attempts to be culturally appropriate. Our interstates and highways are rife with rest stops featuring tipi motifs, and our tourist areas have countless examples of “native” architecture. Native-inspired wall and floor patterns are another way architects have tried to be contextual.

In fact, it also wasn’t until recently that tribal clients had much say on the buildings in their community. When architects do not consult tribal people in the design process or use a generic native pattern rather than using something meaningful to their client’s particular tribe, the project lacks authenticity. And that is not OK.

To put it simply: If a tribal community involved in the design process asks for an eagle-shaped building because the eagle holds significance to it, that is not cultural appropriation. If an architect designs an eagle-shaped building with simply the desire to evoke a Western or native image and without consulting the tribe, that is cultural appropriation.

With the uptick in Native American architects working with tribes and increase in architects involving tribal clients in the design process, cultural appropriation is thankfully becoming less common in architecture. Recognize that the culture of tribal people is thriving every day. When a culture can speak for itself, authenticity will result. This is true in all areas where cultural appropriation occurs.
Greg Powers
It may be the most crucial problem-solving tool we possess.

Communities are the backbone of our nation, and they have all been shaped by the monetary investment, technical expertise, and design decisions of the previous generation. Each generation is responsible for maintaining the built environment they inherit, and each generation must decide how and when to use the technological tools, time, and talent of their age to make meaningful, sustainable, and lasting contributions to their community.

As architects, we have unique skills that confer on us a special responsibility for our communities. Each of us must do what we can—be it small or large—to be responsible stewards of today’s built world and to lead efforts that will result in a better future for the next generation.

Beyond building design and renovation, architects around the nation are using their expertise to address the urgent issues of our time, including increasing our affordable housing stock, fixing crumbling infrastructure, improving school safety, and resolving persistently unequal economic opportunity. The most crucial problem-solving tool we possess is the ability to listen. By listening to the needs of residents and working with civic and business leaders, we can transform communities to reflect this generation’s highest ideals of fairness, equity, and opportunity for all. Architects are stewards of our history and curators of our future. Fundamentally, we all want the same thing: a better, brighter, and fairer future for our family, community, and nation.

The solution to many of today’s most pressing and fundamental challenges—from ensuring access to quality healthcare to increasing social equity and mitigating climate change—are already being addressed or even solved at the community level. In many instances, architects are at the center of these efforts to make their communities better, safer, and stronger.

I am proud to be a member of a profession that continues to focus on how to inspire, how to protect, and how to ensure that the built environment helps future generations thrive and meet the challenges of their day. Ensuring that our communities encourage the health, welfare, and economic opportunity of everyone—without regard to race, gender, or socioeconomic status—is a vision we all share. Achieving that shared vision will require the time and talent of everyone working together. Through partnerships and active and thoughtful listening, we can ensure that our cities, suburbs, and towns—our communities— are safe, sustainable, and equitable places to live, learn, work, and play, for everyone.
Brendan McDermid
The “Vessel” at New York’s Hudson Yards—like so many of his designs—look as if the dystopian world of 1984 has been given a precious makeover.

An alien arriving on Earth this month might be forgiven for assuming that Thomas Heatherwick is currently the world’s most beloved urban designer. The British designer/engineer just unveiled his mammoth climbing-frame-cum-corncob Vessel at New York’s Hudson Yards, while just a few minutes up the Hudson River, an offshore park Pier 55 (also known as Diller Island) is rising out of the tidal sludge on Heatherwick-designed concrete lily pads. In London, his Coal Drops Yard retail development, which features kissing buildings, opened last October in the formerly warehouse-filled hinterland behind Kings Cross Station. Further afield, Heatherwick Studios repurposed a grain silo as an art gallery in Cape Town in 2017 and is co-designing something that looks like a titanic xylophone in Shanghai.

This high-profile intercontinental spread has made Heatherwick all but ubiquitous. It has also earned him a heavy dose of suspicion mixed with contempt, both from critics and the public. His name is often used as something of a synonym for everything that’s wrong with contemporary urban design. The New York Times has dubbed him the “billionaire whisperer” for his dossier of flashy corporate projects; the Guardian called him a “Pied Piper” who has managed to beguile extra-wealthy patrons. Some of his projects have been dubbed “Truman Show Nightmares.” Even the generally, pro-development, pro-business conservative media has started coming for Heatherwick’s projects as bellwethers pointing to exactly where our cities are going awry. But why?

Because, frankly, many of Heatherwick’s projects stink. Time and again, his designs crop up in urban ensembles that look as if the dystopian world of Orwell’s 1984 had been given a kooky Wes Anderson makeover. It’s not aesthetics that are the inherent problem, however. The issue is that the kind of developments that Heatherwick’s structures brand appear playful but are actually loci for a queasy mix of distraction and surveillance, places that promise cheerful hi-jinx but which enforce consumption-driven regimentation on their users. Look at the Vessel (which some wags have already informally renamed “the Shawarma,” thanks to its resemblance to a spinning meatloaf-cone). Here’s a fun $200 million tower of staircases that invites visitors to clamber—but only under ludicrously strict conditions and control. Like many of his projects, it’s essentially a gaudy monument to being only ever-so-slightly free.
Emily Rhyne
Is This the Neighborhood New York Deserves?

The first massive tower emerged at the apex of the High Line, looming over it, a shingled, spiky, reflective blue-glass behemoth, shaped by eccentric cuts and angles, as if sheared by a giant Ginsu knife.

Since then, at jaw-dropping magnitudes you can’t begin to grasp until you are actually standing there, Hudson Yards has sprouted a seven-story, 720,000-square-foot shopping mall. There are also four more supertall skyscrapers as well as a $500 million city-sponsored arts center called the Shed, featuring a giant sliding roof, eye-catchingly swathed in a tufted Teflon-based sheeting that can bring to mind inflated dry cleaning bags.

And, well, what can I call it?

It is temporarily called the Vessel. Hoping for public buy-in, its patron, the lead developer of this vast neoliberal Zion, has invited suggestions for a new name.

Purportedly inspired by ancient Indian stepwells (it’s about as much like them as Skull Mountain at Six Flags Great Adventure is like Chichen Itza) the object — I hesitate to call this a sculpture — is a 150-foot-high, $200 million, latticed, waste-basket-shaped stairway to nowhere, sheathed in a gaudy, copper-cladded steel.

It preens along the critical axis between the High Line and the newish No. 7 subway station at Hudson Yards, hoping to drum up Instagram views and foot traffic for the mall, casting egregious shadows over what passes for public open space, ruinously manspreading beside the Shed, the most novel work of architecture on site, and the only building the private developers didn’t build.

Already, a who’s who of blue-chip hedge funds, law firms and other corporations — SAP, KKR, BlackRock, Wells Fargo, L’Oréal USA, the list goes on — have chosen to move in or will do, when yet another giant office tower, now underway, is completed. WarnerMedia and CNN are migrating from the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, Related’s earlier high-end, mixed-use, mall-centered venture. Star chefs, including Thomas Keller and David Chang (also Columbus Circle tenants), will run restaurants at Hudson Yards, where Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Dior, Gucci, Fendi and more of the usual suspects hope to defy obvious retail trends.

Not yet joining the caravan are companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook. Related’s antiseptic, inward-turning, glass-tower formula doesn’t seem to speak to the tastes of cutting edge industries or younger, urban-minded millennials.

Ninety percent of Hudson Yards’ office tenants, according to a recent study by the New School, are also transfers from Midtown, lured by lucrative tax breaks provided by New York politicians to the developers. Moving from Midtown, the investment company BlackRock, which manages $5.98 trillion, will be able to write off $25 million in state tax credits if it adds 700 jobs at Hudson Yards.

The terms du jour are corporate welfare or socialism for billionaires. City officials sold Hudson Yards to New Yorkers as a self-financing venture. That’s not what it may sound like. The city and state provided tax incentives and poured billions of public dollars into an extension of the No. 7 subway line and into acres of open space around the yards — investments presumably benefiting everyone, which the project is supposed to pay back by increasing New York’s GDP.

We’ll see how and when that happens. As the New School study documents, so far the project is shifting economic development from other neighborhoods to Hudson Yards without creating new net growth.

That said, this shift has spurred more developers to build their own mega-towers near the yards. A new place is emerging.

The question is, what sort of place?

And this is the immediate problem with Hudson Yards.
Kieran Timberlake
As a partner at US practice Kieran Timberlake, Billie Faircloth leads the firm’s research group, a dedicated team of individuals leveraging methods from diverse fields such as environmental management, urban ecology, chemical physics, computer science, materials science, architecture and sculpture. Here she reflects on the firm’s commitment to shaping and supporting research culture in everyday architectural practice.

A conversation on research in architectural practice begins by making the word “research” more approachable. Research is a purposeful and intentional state of mind. It is the daily action of “searching and searching again,” and thus has the very real chance of manifesting as a bold design philosophy and a foundation for design practice and culture. An architectural practice considering the creation of a research process, group or program must first determine how far they are willing to go to promote this culture. Is a practice willing to invest in research by reinvesting its profit to fund the exploration of hunches? Can it support the precept that failure teaches and shapes our work, especially when structured inquiry sometimes yields unexpected, disappointing and inactionable results? Will a practice cultivate research projects that are proactively instigated by its strategic aspirations rather than by a paying client? Will it impart to its staff the agency to ask questions and provide the resources necessary, such as materials, tools, research partners and leadership, to answer them? Will an architectural practice share the products of its research externally when it recognizes that a perceived competitive edge is eclipsed by the greater need for transformation in the profession? A practice will need to rigorously debate answers to these questions. Dare to answer “yes” to each one, simply for the sake of proceeding to the next step. Imagine how you will implement these decisions. Consider your practice’s portfolio, design philosophy, organization and interests, and conspire to nourish research culture as an expression of your mission.

Thirty-plus years of building research culture at Kieran Timberlake have transformed the question “How can we afford to research?” into the retort “How can we afford not to research!” We’ve answered “yes” to each of these essential questions and have affirmed design research through planning, implementing, testing and maturing a platform accessible to each member of our firm that allows us to rigorously search and search again. The critical developmental milestones are numerous and include: our commitment to return profit to our practice to support proactive research (2003); the declaration of an ISO-certified design research process that is audited annually (2005); the decision to hire a dedicated, transdisciplinary research group (2008); the codification of a research query process for data collection, analysis, modelling and simulation, physical prototyping and original experiments (2011); the strategic growth of the research group to 10 percent of our overall staff (2012); the first successful public release of an internally developed architectural tool for use by the profession (2013); the further articulation of a design computation platform as a companion to our more established research platform (2015); and, most recently, the formalizing of a collective intelligence model in which every architectural project begins with a complementary team of architecture, research and communications staff (2016). We are not finished or aiming for stasis. We’ve learned that our design practice is thirty years in the making and still forming. It requires thoughtful reflection in order to learn from what we do.

And what exactly do we do? Quite simply, we ask and answer questions. And we expect questions to beget actions, actions to beget findings and findings to support design. For instance, the simple, direct question “What’s going on up there?” led to the creation of a novel green roof survey method. Implementation of this method on five previously completed green roof projects provided actionable insight into the time-based dynamics of vegetation and challenged our internal discussion about green roof design, composition and performance on other projects. We’ve completed hundreds of queries in all phases of design, which loosely fall into the c
Samantha McCloud
At its essence, EDI is less about sparking controversy and more about increasing business competence and opportunities, writes the GastingerWalker& director of community involvement, diversity & inclusion.

Despite significant improvements in recent years, my hometown of Kansas City, Mo., remains one of the most segregated cities in America. Accordingly, it may come as no surprise to hear I rarely encountered diversity, of any kind, during my childhood. Upon graduating from high school, I spent a year in the Philippines, where my mother is from, and developed a passion for building community and learning from others.

That passion led me down life-changing paths at Kansas State University, notably joining its NCAA Women’s rowing team and enrolling in its architecture program. In these two ventures, camaraderie is a lifeline. The challenges I faced and successes I had were often shared with others.

I pursue the same sense of allyship in my office and the opportunity to bring inclusion to the forefront in Kansas City, which I still call home. By initiating and destigmatizing conversations about inequity, I have seen—and helped spark—progress since graduating six years ago.

When I started at my current firm, managing partners equally comprised women and men. However, I was the only ethnic minority in the company. By speaking up and participating in recruitment efforts, I helped my company attract new talent and increase our team’s diversity. Today, 15 percent of our 45-plus Kansas City design staff identify as people of color, and our office is burgeoning with new business. Furthermore, the firm makes intentional efforts to support equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), not just in our marketing but also in practice, through mentorship, flexibility, transparency, biannual reviews, annual pay audits, two-way communication and engagement across all experience levels, equitable access to project opportunities, and creating my role as director of community involvement, diversity & inclusion.

As a visible thought leader on EDI, our firm has deepened its ability to connect with existing clients and has expanded its reach with new clients. By bringing diverse perspectives to the table, our design teams solve challenges with greater empathy, understanding, and innovation. When envisioning the experience of end users in their future spaces and the relationships our projects will have with their neighborhoods, the conversations are more intimate and human-centered.