Architecture


The Power of Focus

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February 27, 2014
Chasing every project may seem wise in a tight economy. But smart firms specialize. Leading practitioners and management experts share their perspectives.

In lean times, you take what you can get. For architecture firms still climbing out of a recession-sized hole, that can translate into bidding for just about any viable project that comes along, even if it’s outside their zone of expertise. That can be seen as a sign of desperation or as an instinctual survival tactic. Ray Kogan, AIA, sees it as a mistake.

World's largest concrete pour: LA witnesses 'ballet of construction trucks'

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February 14, 2014
Wilshire Grand building will put Los Angeles back in the skyscraper business as city aims to rejuvenate its centre

Hundreds of spectators lined the streets in downtown Los Angeles Saturday for what might seem a lacklustre event in a city known for its entertainment: a parade of trucks poured a load of concrete into a hole. But this was no ordinary hole. It's the site of the future Wilshire Grand, a 73-storey building filled with offices, retail and hotel rooms that will, when it opens in 2017, be the tallest building in the city, and the eighth tallest in the US.

The Seven Top Legislative Priorities for Architecture in 2014

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January 27, 2014
Student debt. Small business tax reform. Fannie and Freddie. Given the current economy, lobbying has never been more important for architecture. Legislative liaisons from the AIA, the NAHB, and other organizations share their top issues for the coming year.

The Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013

Piecemeal Potential

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November 20, 2013
The sky may be the limit for prefab modular towers.

There’s a detectable hint of dismay in the voice of Christopher Sharples, AIA, founding principal of New York’s SHoP Architects. “Everyone thinks we’re just stacking boxes,” he says about SHoP’s 32-story modular residential tower that is now under construction as part of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project. When complete, the tower, known as B2, will be the tallest modular building in the world, made up of more than 910 prefabricated elements and comprising 363 units.

Working in the Age of Geodesign

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February 6, 2013
Data is becoming the designer’s new best friend. Urban designers, architects, and landscape architects – whether they’ve realized it yet, or not – will soon be integrating massive sets of data into every design they do.

These fields are entering the age of geodesign, an emerging concept that melds the geospatial data of geographic information systems, or GIS, with simulation and design evaluation techniques. Through geographic analysis of the various streams of data relating to a project and its site, geodesign creates the potential for real-time vetting of design ideas within the grander context of the site. From hydrology and habitat to traffic patterns and energy regimes, multitudes of data are now easily available and nearly as easily integrated into the designs of the built environment.

Urban Reinvestments

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January 16, 2013
The urban reinvestment and renewal efforts of the last half-century left a legacy of neglect and underinvestment in many American cities. Now that pattern is shifting.

Large-scale public housing projects and forced relocation programs created pockets of poverty in inner cities, concentrating the problems of low-income urbanites and not really doing much to effectively solve them. The concept of urban reinvestment has, understandably, developed a negative connotation over the years.

John King on Watching a City Change Through its Buildings

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November 9, 2011
The San Francisco Chronicle's urban design critic takes a close look at the city's most notable buildings.

Buildings are arguably the most important ingredients of a city. But they alone don’t make a city what it is. History, context, and most importantly the changes brought by time are what shapes a city. Its buildings, though, reflect these changes.

Carbon-Free Chicago

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August 22, 2011
The Windy City’s first net-zero-energy home employs a butterfly roof and other smart design ideas to help it unplug from the grid.

Homes are responsible for 23 percent of the energy used in the US and 18 percent of carbon emissions. In cities like Chicago, where the temperature can vary by 100 degrees, heating and cooling bills can be bank-breakers. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Five years ago, local architecture and urban-design firm Farr Associates was asked to solve the problem. The company built a 2,600-square-foot house that is now “very, very close” to generating all of its own power, architect Jonathan Boyer says.

Make No Small Plans

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April 28, 2011
Grounding architecture within a larger building ecology.

Regional issues such as stormwater treatment and energy production have become major elements of the design of architectural projects, even at a very small scale. As demand for natural resources rises and the impact of pollution spreads, taking these issues into consideration is likely to become a more important part of urban planning and architecture. This year’s national AIA convention recognizes the shift with its theme “Regional Design Revolution: Ecology Matters.”

But many argue that the long-term thinking of regionalism is still a burgeoning concept.

John D'Amico

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April 27, 2011
The project-manager-turned-public-servant discusses the ideas that helped him defeat an incumbent for a seat on West Hollywood’s city council.

John D’Amico, 47, is the newest member of the City Council of West Hollywood, Calif., which is a small, independent city of 34,000 people almost completely surrounded by the metropolis of Los Angeles. But unlike the typical cadre of attorneys and organizers who fill these sorts of seats in cities across the country, D’Amico comes to his new role with a master’s degree in architecture and urban design and a second in aesthetics and politics, plus more than 20 years of experience in the field.