February 25, 2010

Andrea Salvini's The Sustainable Neighborhood

by David Savage

Italian designer Andrea Salvini, based in New York City, has focused his work on eco-responsible residential architecture since 2008, when he caused a stir in the blogosphere with his Modern Cabin and Trilogy of Fire Island Homes -- both an attempt to re-imagine and reinvigorate the moribund American vacation home tradition for the eco-conscious age. Now he has turned his attention back to his homeland, this time with a mixed-use, green housing project near Caserta, in southern Italy, which he calls The Sustainable Neighborhood.

Consisting of 13, five-floor apartment buildings spread over 12 acres, the development reflects the needs of a tightly knit community where environmental regulations are becoming increasingly strict. These kinds of strictures, Andrea explains, often result in more innovative design practices, where more has to be done with less, yet at the same time the mandate is to somehow improve its inhabitants' comfort and standard of living.

Andrea achieves this through a variety of architectural details. Paramount were the importance of balconies for all units. Both front and rear facades of the building are articulated in a grid of large balconies where sunlight is regulated by adjustable, brise-soleil sliding panels, or louvers. As each resident adjusts his own brise-soleil in response to light needs or preference, the result is a continuously changing, random pattern on the facade. Sunlight control is an important feature for residential architecture in southern Italy in particular, where summer temperatures can be sweltering.

Continuous glass surfaces wrap the perimeters of the entire ground (commercial) floors, emphasizing the suspended effect of the buildings, which is supported by pilotis. This suspension design creates recessed porticoes as a sheltered gathering place for the residents and the surrounding community – recalling a traditional feature of Italian architecture. The glass surface is visually interrupted by the stark element of a sculptural, metal folding screen that at night – after business hours – encloses its perimeter for security.

Vertical gardens, conceived as an abstract extension of the surrounding greenspaces, would enliven the sides of each building with an unbroken expanse of a variety of plants, such as ivy, creepers and grasses.

Other key features include:
  • A natural ventilation chimney by the stairwell, designed to extract outside air and pass it through the building while cooling at ground-floor level
  • A veranda serra (greenhouse balcony) system to reduce the quantity of heat generated by the heating system during the winter months, supported by solar screens that control any direct irradiation and outside thermal exposure of the rooms during summer months
  • A rainwater collection system which also recycles grey water
  • An insulated façade and roof system using the aforementioned vertical garden application for lower energy consumption
  • Energy efficiency approaches to building orientation and passive solar design
  • Adjustable ventilation louvers by the building lobby’s entrance and stairwell

One such detail is a system of light panels (attached perpendicularly to the facades) which change pattern in the facades and illuminate at night through solar power, creating a dramatic, rhythmic visual effect in the darkness.

The overall effect of The Sustainable Neighborhood, one of lightness, community, natural harmony and a dignified note of privacy, is notable for its break from traditional, middle-income housing projects for these very qualities. You can read more about The Sustainable Neighborhood, as well as Andrea's other projects, at: http://sites.google.com/site/salviniarchitect/.

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February 24, 2010

Video: 24 City - Movie Trailer

A movie for anyone interested in China and the consequences of rapid development. A factory is demolished, like so many others, to make way for condos. Workers and their families are overlooked and displaced from their long time homes and facing the challenges of finding new work. This is one story that echos across the country, affecting millions of people. Unfortunately this side of China's economic success and architectural growth is overshadowed by the flashy building designed by the global starchitects. Check out the preview, hunt down the full film. It's well worth it.

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February 23, 2010


Here is a fantastic opportunity to go live and work in Africa. The first offer is to intern at an architecture and engineering firm in Kampala, Uganda but the Musana Volunteer program also offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities. It is also wonderfully run by my sister who will help out and answer questions every step of the way.

ARCHITECTS and Structural Engineers Needed:
FBW Uganda Group (www.fbwgroup.com) is looking for international architecture interns to spend 1-6 months working and living in Kampala, Uganda. FBW Group is requesting qualified, experienced architects who have a passion for international architecture to work in a cooperative office that is comprised of local and international employees and interns. The cross-cultural exchange of ideas and global expertise adds to their phenomenal design and structural engineering.

If interested, Please email your CV/Resume and Letter of Intent to hannahwillowgray@gmail.com as soon as possible.They are willing to take on 3 interns this year so please act fast and submit your CV and Letter of Intent as soon as possible.

Dear Potential Architecture and Structural Engineer Interns,

My name is Hannah Willow Gray. I am an experienced Volunteer Coordinator, originally from upstate New York, currently living in Uganda, East Africa. Over the past 5 years I have lived on and off in Kampala, Uganda, working for various NGOs and International organizations. I am now committed to starting my own volunteer program called "Musana Volunteers" in order to link up international volunteers with reputable organizations, businesses, and companies in Uganda. I know that many of you are interested in getting work experience in a developing country but aren't sure of the best way to get started. That is where I come in.

I will organize your Volunteer/Internship Placement in Uganda, find Housing, organize Transportation, set-up Safaris and other weekend trips, and provide you with all the necessary information you need to live in Kampala, Uganda for any length of time. I will send you a detailed budget of the total cost of your stay here. Since I have lived here for a few years, I have a good understanding of the cost of living and how to find the best bargains. I have noticed that many volunteer organizations found on the internet tend to have large administrative fees and I felt my local expertise could help cut down on those costs. I will organize your entire trip, except the flight, and help you adjust quickly to your temporary home in Uganda, for only a small administrative cost. I guarantee you will fall in love with East Africa, as I have.

Please email hannahwillowgray@gmail.com with any questions, concerns, or comments!

Hannah Willow Gray

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February 22, 2010

Slideshow: Olympiastadion - Munich, Germany

Unfortunately the lighting in these photos isn't great and the overcast sky washed out the backgrounds, but they still offer an up close view of a stunning piece of architecture. Still impressive after 30 years, the Munich Olympic Stadium steals the thunder from the newer flashier design of the BMW World by Coop Himmelb(l)au, across the street. These flowing tent like structures decked out with glass roofs are magnificent to behold, an expression of structure that captivates the imagination and boggles the mind. It's amazing the calculations and design challenges overcame in this project long before digital design tools were the norm for architectural practices.

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February 21, 2010

Video: Bjarke Ingles - Interveiwed by Brijuni Arquitectos - Part V

Bjarke Ingels People´s Tower from brijuni arquitectos on Vimeo.

Part V of the interview with Bjarke Ingles illuminates the development of the idea for their People's Tower project in Shanghai. Its a bit scary to me, that the same design (although scaled up) is relevant for Sweden and China. I think designing for the specific context is incredibly important for successful architecture. I am sure they manipulated the design and adapted it to respond to local climate, culture, surroundings, etc. It does seem to fit within the flamboyant skyline of shanghai more than the subdued landscape of Sweden.

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February 20, 2010

Video: Bjarke Ingles - Interveiwed by Brijuni Arquitectos - Part IV

Part IV of the Bjarke Ingels Interview shows their housing projects in Copenhagen, the VM Houses and The Mountain villas.

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February 18, 2010

Steven Holl Architects Selected to Design New Arts Building for University of Iowa Arts Campus

Press Release:
New York, NY: February 16, 2010 – Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with BNIM Architects, has won the commission for the new art studio facility for the University of Iowa (UI) Arts campus. The new building is to replace an original arts building from 1936, which was heavily damaged during a flood of the University of Iowa campus in June 2008. The proposed site is directly adjacent to and northwest of the Art Building West, designed by Steven Holl Architects, which since its opening in 2006 has received numerous awards, including the AIA 2007 Institute Honor Award for Architecture.

The selection process, which was to find an architect-led team and not to select a specific design, was organized by The University of Iowa. The Selection Committee, chaired by UI Facilities Management project manager Beverly Robalino, chose Steven Holl Architects with BNIM Architects, for their “creativity and attention to complex issues on an exciting but difficult site. The Steven Holl Architects/BNIM team displayed awareness and sensitivity to an adjacent residential neighborhood, a solid understanding of challenges related to FEMA supported projects, and a unique connection to the site’s most direct contextual neighbor; Holl’s celebrated Art Building West.”

UI Facilities Management director of Planning, Design & Construction, Rod Lehnertz said, “the University unanimously chose the team of Steven Holl and BNIM, based on our confidence in what the team brings to the table, and in the positive results of our past partnerships. We feel fortunate to, once again, have the opportunity to work with Steven Holl Architects, as together we advance a new building fitting the top-level program that will reside there. As was the case the last time Steven Holl came to our campus, this will be a project that will create success for both the School of Art & Art History and The University of Iowa.”

Steven Holl said, “We are very pleased to be able to work again with The University of Iowa towards the creation of campus space as well as a new an inspiring facility for the arts.”

For more information on the work of Steven Holl Architects, please visit www.stevenholl.com
For more information on BNIM Architects, please visit www.bnim.com
For more information on the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History, please visit www.art.uiowa.edu

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February 17, 2010

Video: The Architecture of Shigeru Ban

This video, from the Wall Street Journal, is a short interview with Shigeru Ban. He discusses his architecture, his use of interesting materials such as paper tubes as structural elements, and talks about his believe that architects need to work for all sorts of clients, not just the rich elite. I am a huge admirer or Shigeru ban's work and even applied to his Tokyo office a couple of years ago. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he was awarded the next Pritzker Prize although he will have some competition from Steven Holl and Sanaa.

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February 15, 2010

Slideshow: Kolumba by Peter Zumthor - Cologne, Germany

The Kolumba museum in Cologne, Germany was high on my list of places to visit and it turned out to be a spectacular experience. Although not all of the images are fantastic do to some low lighting conditions and no tripod, you should get an overall sense of the elegant design by Peter Zumthor. This was definitely one of the best pieces of architecture I have visited on my travels. Truly stunning both in the design of the building, the materiality and tectonics as well as the art shown within - an interesting juxtaposition of historic and contemporary art.

Check out the Kolumba website for more information: www.Kolumba.de

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February 14, 2010

Video: Bjarke Ingles - Interveiwed by Brijuni Arquitectos - Part II

Part II of the Bjarke Ingels interview introduces is to BIG's Lego Towers project. Unfortunately the giant, 2 m tall model build out of Legos is out of the office and only shown on a poster. But it is an interesting design, none the less.

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February 10, 2010

Architecture in Times of Need: Make It Right Rebuilding New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward

originally published in the last edition of Design Exchange Magazine

In the wake of the most recent tsunami to wreak havoc on a coastal region, focus is returned to the once hot topic of disaster relief. What is the best way to implement immediate assistance and perhaps more importantly how do we rebuild for the long term? If the horrors of Catrina have had any positive, its that it taught us what not to do and hopefully has better prepared us for similar events going forward.

There have been many stories about the rebuilding efforts there yet they seem like they are lost in the past. The media has turned its back, looking for the next big story. We are quickly forgetting the struggle people rebuilding those communities are still dealing with on a daily basis. However, a new book highlighting the work of a trendy architecture firm, a Hollywood star, and a devastated community, has brought the spotlight back to the area and shown one attempt to "Make It Right."

The Make It Right is an organization developed by Brad Pitt focused on the redevelopment of the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. This district was completely devastated by Hurricane Katrina almost four years ago and has struggled to recover. Mr. Pitt assembled a team including architecture firms GRAFT, who he has collaborated with in the past, and William McDonough + Partners along with the Cherokee Gives Back Foundation. The aim was to develop a neighborhood of homes following the Cradle to Cradle philosophy while engaging the local community and providing high quality sustainable homes.

The initiative engaged a group of international designers, each to design and build affordable housing for the low income residents, while creating a new sustainable housing typology. Such international stars as David Adjaye, GRAFT, Frank Gehry, MVRDV, Morphosis and Shigeru Ban along with others have taken part in the project donating their time and design expertise. Many of the houses broke ground this past summer and 13 have already been completed, with families moving in. Each house meets LEED Platinum standards helping to reduce the energy costs for the inhabitants while being environmentally responsible. The goal is to rebuild 150 homes to jump start the redevelopment of this district and hopefully act as a catalyst for similar development projects.

Along with the housing design, GRAFT and Mr. Pitt collaborated on a Land Art project in order to generate interest through the international media. The "Pink Project" consisted of hundreds of large pink tents, each taking a simple geometric form and being dispersed through the landscape of the destroyed area. These objects recall the density and vibrancy of the residential neighborhood that was reduced to a scraggly field by the storm. This project along with the Make It Right Initiative and the corresponding design process was recently published as a book: Architecture in Times of Need: Make It Right Rebuilding New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.

Hopefully, this project, along with the increased media exposure it and the high profile participants bring, will once again bring our focus back to the challenges of coping with natural disasters. too often our feelings and aid fade over time and stop once the real work needs to be done. Rebuilding is a long and tedious process. We can't abandon those in need once the spotlight has moved on to the most recent gossip or political scandal.

Architecture in Times of Need: Make It Right - Rebuilding the New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward


February 9, 2010

Video: CITIZEN ARCHITECT - Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio

This is a trailer for an upcoming PBS documentary on Samuel Mockbee and Rural Studio - a program at the University of Auburn Architecture school. Every year a class of students goes to an underprivileged town and offers their services to the local residents. They design houses, community centers, chapels, or anything else they find the local community needs. It is a truly amazing program and one that has influenced similar initiatives in other universities - including one I was involved with, Design Bridge at the University of Oregon.

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February 8, 2010

Slideshow: The Cologne Dom - Cologne, Germany

A monumental example of spectacular Gothic Architecture, the Cologne Dom dominates the city's skyline and is a truly spectacularly detailed edifice. Climbing the towers offers stunning views of the city and reveals that every inch of this building, from the foundation stones up to the highest peak of the towers is intricately carved with immaculate details. Definitely worth visiting and one of the best examples of gothic architecture that I have visited.

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February 7, 2010

Video: Bjarke Ingles - Interveiwed by Brijuni Arquitectos - Part I

The first of five short videos comprising an interview with Bjare Ingles the Danish Architect whose firm, BIG, has been winning many international design competitions recently. Bold forms and clear diagrams are the trademark of their work, while these interviews get a glimpse of his design philosophy and the thinking behind a few of their projects. (I will post the rest of the interview next week)

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February 3, 2010

Design With A Spine by Marcus O’Reilly Architects

I'd like to share a recent house design by an architect and friend running the firm, Marcus O'Reilly Architects, in Melbourne Australia. We met a couple of years ago as participants of the Glenn Murcutt International masters Class. It is always fantastic to see what my classmates have been doing since we parted ways. Below is the press release describing the design and some images of the completed project:

This single story house is located on a leafy well established street in Kyneton, Victoria, Australia. While appropriately scaled for the neighborhood it is a variation on the local typology. Whereas the typical suburban model of a distinct front yard and back yard is the norm in the area, this design focuses the house to a generous north facing outdoor room.

Stretching east to west across the site, the dynamic double skillion roofs provide ample northern light into every room in the house. A central spine between the two roofs splits the house into public and private functions and visually connects the entrance of the home to the sculptural forms of the rear garden. A thickened wall with deep niches for the display of art and random artifacts heightens the experience of passing along the central circulation.

Years ago, the client and Marcus O’Reilly shared a furniture workshop and the pair have collaborated extensively in the past. The longstanding working relationship between the two led to a very smooth, efficient and effective construction process, where both client and Architect were consistently on the same page. The clients ease in understanding the design intent, left time to focus on more intimate detailing such as the fine tapering of the roof eaves, the pocketing doors and exterior cladding systems. The home was beautifully put together by the client, who brought his cabinet making sensibility to the intricately coordinated construction of the home.

The residence’s thermal performance is exceptional due to ample thermal mass to the south, double glazed windows to the north, long eaves, and a subfloor airspace to stabilize the diurnal range. A screened water tank in the front of the property, harvesting rainwater from the roofs, provides water for the toilets, laundry and garden.

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February 1, 2010

Slideshow: The Royal Theater Opera - Copenhagen, Denmark

An incredibly controversial building in Copenhagen, The Royal Theater Opera sits across the harbor from the historic city center. Unlike the local residents I actually kind of liked the architecture of the building, at least the main facade. However, it is an obvious rip off of Jean Nouvel's Luzern Culture and Congress Center. The building was actually a gift - completely privately funded - by Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller and designed by Henning Larsen. However, the client was apparently very controlling of the project and even pressured the government to let him chose any site he wished within the city. He also exercised control of the design often making additions and changes against the architect's wishes - including a controversial change of the main facade by adding a steel grill over the pristine glass.

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