Tuesday, October 31, 2006

building new ideas: the art of progressive urban design

image of alvarez morris' work from campodf's photostream

from the aia calendar:

friday.03.november.2006 5.00pm-9.00pm
location: 1150 Delaware st.denver.CO

SOLiD architectural design and Sprocket Design Build announce the opening of
"Building New Ideas," an exhibition featuring the work of eight emerging architectural firms working at the forefront of Denver’s internationally renowned design scene.

These mixed-media installations are certain to spark dialogue about urban design and its impact on our lives.

Please join Sprocket Design Build, SOLiD architectural design, Bothwell Davis George Architects, Groundworks design, studiotrope, in-situ DESIGN, AlvarezMorris architectural studio and Michael Tavel Architects as they discuss and present their work in an open forum at the opening of the exhibit.

Monday, October 30, 2006

george hoover-advocate for public architecture

here's a well-written perspective by a local denver architect, george hoover. he is an active member of the architecture faculty at CU Denver and has been practicing architecture in denver since 1961-establishing his firm, hooverdesmond architects ar7] founded in 1976. in his article, "an architect's drive for excellence", he states that:
Many of us who live in Denver have designed and built in distant cities and countries, generally because our clients found we were best suited to help meet their aspirations, regardless of our place of residence. Design talent exists both within and beyond city limits. Those who seek genuine architectural excellence do not allow arbitrary boundaries to limit their search for the right match.
Thus, hyperbole such as "ego- driven icons designed by the famous" is not only misleading, it distracts from the core issue here: how we define, value and realize excellence.

his article not only outlines a manifesto for collaboration, and also wards against the pitfalls of making decisions based up on expediency.

maybe george should make his way out of [semi-]retirment...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


photo taken by bysevensixfive
PLOT, [was] one of the most intriguing young architectural practices around, and now the two principals of each firm have split to form their own practices-JDS [Julien De Smedt] architects, and BIG [Bjarke Ingels Group]. they both originate from denmark, but have worked under the likes of rem koolhaas' OMA. PLOT initiated as a frantic and almost desperate attempt to enter as many architectural competitions as possible. some bit, but most didn't go past the conceptual stage. they even went as far as proposing [without being prompted *gasp*] a super-harbor that concentrated all shipping docks on denmark's entire coast into on giant station in the middle of the sea. this "superharbor" would also have a hybrid bridge/tunnel that would link denmark to the netherlands. see the entire video here. the music is a testament to these guys and that they don't take themselves too seriously.

what does this have to do with architecture, you say? easy: after all the old harbors have been redeveloped into housing, ALL danes can live on the coast. the danish government wasn't as intrigued with this idea as china. so now it has taken off to land in the east, in the shape of the country's 5-pointed star, rather than a 6-pointed starburst.

the rest of this article is excerpted from domus magazine [italy]:

After five years, three buildings, countless designs and much critical acclaim, Bjarke Ingels and Julien De Smedt of PLOT have decided to go their own ways, founding BIG and JDS respectively. Domus presents PLOT’s most recent works. Text by Joseph Grima. Photography by Gaia Cambiaggi
News that their competition entry for Helsingør Psychiatric Hospital had won first prize came as something of a godsend to Bjarke Ingels and Julien De Smedt, co-founders of the now defunct architecture practice PLOT. It was February 2003, and the office’s other projects were either finished or on hold; office staff completed the competition entry as a gap-filler during their last three months of notice before closure. It was a hard-earned victory that followed an extensive period of visits and telephone calls to consultant psychiatrists, doctors, patients and hospital staff; Ingels describes the result as a “long list of conflicting desires, with no clear requirements”. Even the competition brief itself was an exercise in ambiguity, calling for a building both centralised and non-hierarchical, protected and secluded but open to its surroundings, introverted but not carceral, two-storey but with external access from every room. “After all,” Ingels quipps, “Helsingør is the hometown of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The brief was to be and not to be.”

The result is a low-slung starburst, a bundle of rectilinear wards and treatment facilities that meet in a central point of intersection. The sculpted landscape surrounding the building dips to reveal a lower floor where the patient’s rooms and additional accommodation for staff are located; the upper floors of the three wings are devoted to the treatment of the hospital’s patients. The architect’s main objective was to do away with the clichès associated with hospital design, such as dark, claustrophobic corridors crossing tightly-packed, symmetrically-arranged wards. Here the long, brightly-coloured corridors are lined with glass to allow maximum light penetration and to afford the occupants a “gallery of views”, a condition of constant visual contact with the exterior. Dotted around the three wings are a number of sunken courtyards that offer patients secluded and protected open-air spaces.

As with most of their work, the clover-leaf plan underwent innumerable alterations, adjustments, amputations and improvements during project development. This approach to design, which obstinately subjects as wide as possible a range of formal and programmatic iterations to a Darwinian fitness test, was inherited from OMA, where Bjarke Ingels and Julien De Smedt first met. Their design strategy posits that every constraint exerts a force on the architectural artifact, and not necessarily for the worse; on the contrary, “optimised constraints” are seen as the tools that sculpt the unique identity of a successful design. Counterpart to this approach is the willingness to dispassionately substitute one programme with another while carrying out relatively minor alterations to the architecture itself: the design for Helsingør Psychiatric Hospital, for example, began its life as an unrealised proposal for an aquacentre.

The results of this anti-dogmatic process of tireless experimentation undermine the assumption that certain building typologies are incompatible with creative architectural expression. A recently-completed scheme in Ørestad, one of Copenhagen’s fastest-growning suburban neighborhoods, takes on the bête noir of contemporary European architecture: high-density, affordable, privately-funded housing developments.
The VM Houses (so called because in plan the south-facing block forms a “V” and the north-facing block an “M”) are the result of a very unexceptional brief calling for 230 residential units in 2 blocks combined with the constraints imposed by zoning height requirements, optimisation of views towards the nearby canals and sightlines from the surrounding residential neighbourhoods. The success of the project took even the Danish developer Per Høpfner by surprise: all units were sold out in just three weeks, most going on the first day they were put on the market. This exceptional result might well have something to do with the fact that PLOT’s design overcomes one of the less appealing characterstics of most housing developments. Rather than replicating the same apartment module throughout the blocks, the VM Houses constitute a 3D jigsaw puzzle of sorts, offering a bewildering variety of different floorplans (75), none of which is repeated more than a dozen times. Several, especially those on the top floors dissected by the sloping roof, have unique features such as outdoor terraces. Were it needed, more proof that the accepted rules of working with developers are not necessarily inflexible is granted by humourous touches such as the pixelated portrait of the developer (executed in brightly-coloured bathroom tiles) on the walls of the entrance lobby.

The architectural solutions proposed in the past five years by PLOT - and now carried forward separately by the offices of Ingels and De Smedt (BIG and JDS respectively) - habitually and ingeniously undermine the customary approach to urban intervention, as the unrealised projects on the following pages demonstrate. In addition to this, they are exploring new realms of intervention by taking a proactive stance in seeking new commissions: rather than relying on competitions or direct commissions to feed the office’s workflow, PLOT frequently offered univited proposals for large urban interventions to municipal authorities in Denmark and elsewhere, which were often received surprisingly warmly. Some, such as a proposal for a three-kilometre wall of apartment blocks that would surround an open area devoted to sports in the Klovermarken area of Copenhagen (quenching the city’s thirst for housing in one fell swoop), became the focus of heated political debate and petitions both in favour and against. PLOT’s great achievement is to have succeeded - in its brief five-year lifespan - in offering an example of an architecture practice capable of reconciling avant-garde design with the real needs of clients both public and private. It’s now up to BIG and JDS to find new areas of intervention and write the next chapter of the story. J.G.

Works In Progress
A selection of projects conceived by PLOT and now being developed independently by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) and the practice of Julien De Smedt, JDS Architects

Mountain Dwellings, Ørestad
Mountain Dwellings is the second phase of the completed VM Houses project, and will be built on the same site by the same developer. Composed of 2/3 parking and 1/3 residential units, it merges these two programmes into a single building optimising views, daylight exposure, accessiblity and density. The apartments are arranged in a south-facing, sloped array supported by 11 storeys of car parking: the result takes on the appearance of a mountainside, standing out in stark contrast to Copenhagen’s flat landscape. Bjarke Ingels and Julien De Smedt describe the project as an excercise in “suburban living with urban density”.

People’s Building, Shanghai
The RÉN building is a proposal for a hotel, sports and conference centre for the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The tower, developed in association with ARUP, is conceived as two buildings that merge into one over a waterway. The first is devoted to the body and houses a sports centre and water culture centre, the second to the mind, with a conference centre. The point where the two buildings merge into one is devoted to a 1000-room hotel. After completing the design, the architects discovered a fortuitous likeness between the building and the Chinese character meaning “the people”, thus giving the building its name.

The Battery, Copenhagen
The Battery is a large-scale project for urban intervention that seeks to integrate three disjoined neighbourhoods of Copenhagen (Islands Brygge, Amagerbro and Ørestaden) by overlapping them in an “urban activity centre”. The new neighbourhood, several blocks in length, comprises all the basic elements of urbanity: apartments, offices, shops, child care and sports facilities and cultural institutions. By including a mosque (the first in Denmark), it also aims to favour the cultural integration of the city’s minorities. Although the new neighbourhood’s architecture appears to be of geological inspiration, the mountain-like buildings trace exactly the maximum buildable height of each plot, thus optimising the site’s density.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mijn bureau, uw bureau

in keeping with the post on danny's blog werlew, here is a picture of the hell which never stops burning. this is the job site office-not as colorful as the hq office, butit will do.

description from left to right, clockwise:
drawing rack, "meeting" table with redline drawings & sunglasses, office calendar [beyond], shelves for mostly crap [product samples & such] but some useful things like: IBC codebook, safety vest [for site visits], trace paper. on the desk: computer with dual monitor [must have], hard hat-black [sweet], polyester work chair which is definitely not an aeron, acting as rack for sweater made in italy.



Monday, October 23, 2006

friendly reminder[s]...

don't forget that the presentations by the clyfford still museum shortlist architects will be at the denver convention center [ballroom 8] next week november 6th @ 6.00pm.
The three finalists [in order of appearance] are:

Allied Works Architecture
Ohlhausen DuBois Architects
Diller Scofidio + Renfro

as if that day [nov 6th] wasn't exciting enough, tod wiliiams from TWBT architects in new york will be lecturing at the UC Denver auraria campus. Room 400 @ 5.30pm. There is a rumour that this might be re-scheduled due to the still presentations, but no word yet.

for now, you must choose your own adventure...


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

civic [in]justice: lamenting loss

who killed the justice center?

it looks like a protest of sorts- RMN.

freedesign, a local group of young architects, along with deproduction.org is sponsoring a "lament" for architect steven holl's lost design for the denver justice center. the event will take place thursday 19 october, 8pm-10pm at the recently completed DAM hamilton building near 13th and bannock.
the group has started a blog called "Thank You Steven Holl..." to mark the occasion.
Westword has some coverage entitled sometimes there is no justice, and the event marks the date to which holl was supposed to present his design to the public. the invitation is here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

ground control to mayor john...

the latest debaucle in the resignation of architect Steven Holl from the Denver Justic Center Project resides here [RMN]. according to mr. holl, he tried to reach out and touch the mayor of denver for his patronic blessing, but alas he couldn't get through on the red bat-phone.
"I couldn't get through to the mayor," Holl said from his New York office. "I said the city needs an advocate for public architecture within the city. The mayor didn't have the time to be an advocate."

Design was not the issue, he said. "The design didn't shift. The attitude changed. I don't think the project manager wanted us in the picture. My communications to the mayor were blocked."

but then, when it may have still held on by a thread, it all came down to one phone call that may have hurt the project managers [at the city] and their precious feelings. to save his reputation, and perhaps to show everyone what the city would be missing, a video appeared on holl's website that showed his design for 50% through schematic design. in the video holl vaguley states that the building is "on time & on budget with all the program included", in contrast to the city's claims. the link to the video is here, but beware, it is a HUGE FILE, so go to a long lunch while downloading. if you don't want to wait, then here's some screenshots:

then comes the kicker about a call between holl & the mayor:

The two spoke by phone Sept. 20. Holl said he told the mayor that "unless (he) refreshed his management and got an advocate for public architecture, this design can't go down this path."
Holl believes the remark was overheard on speaker phone by the very managers he was criticizing.
But the mayor said the comment was made before he turned on the speaker phone for the team gathered in his office.
"(Holl) wanted to vent," Hickenlooper said. "I couldn't repeat to them what he had said. I told him I was putting it on speaker. But (Holl) may have repeated it later."
Holl and Hickenlooper spoke a couple of days later, too, Holl said. But by then, it was too late.

it was that damn speaker phone function again wasn't it?! why can't the city get those things fixed?! which button do i push to end this thing again?!!!
Ah! here it is...



Thursday, October 05, 2006

klipp to denver: "show me the money!"

confirmed from the previous post:
architect quits justice center project
all due to budget/fee constraints
"...we certainly knew there were issues for the last couple weeks," the decision to proceed without Holl was up to the Klipp team.

"We have been holding Klipp accountable for delivering the project on time and on budget," Mejía said.

also at RMN-Jail project loses Architect
Councilman Doug Linkhart, chairman of the council safety committee, was more specific. Linkhart said that Holl and Klipp had a fundamental difference over design concepts at the center, at Elati Street and West 14th Avenue.

"I'm certainly concerned about it," he said. "The schedule is a potential issue. But also, will they design as interesting a building as Steven Holl? He's a world-famous architect."

but steven, i thought we had you at "hello...nice scarf..."

and now, a lament:

As the saffron scarf sails away

a black holl is left exposed.

The Dali Lama weeps.

--Epicure of Epicures


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

holl to denver: "I QUIT!"

new york based architect steven holl, whose firm was selected in a competition to design the almost $400 million court complex for denver, has had enough. In Judicial Complex, architect part ways, it states that:
"After several months of collaboration, it was concluded that the Denver Justice Center Project objectives could not allow (Steven Holl Architects) to design a building consistent with Steven Holl's design philosophy," the local architecture firm said in a statement.

i'll bet the local associate architects for the project Klipp, are doing their end zone touchdown dance right now...

if history in this town proves correct, klipp assumes full responsibility for the design & construction of the new courthouse. besides-why would the city of denver go through another expensive search & interview for another architect? stay tuned for the next laughing stock story from denver, usa...