Architecture


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.

Landscape Futures Super-Workshop

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January 27, 2011
Geoff Manaugh is trying out a new shared and experimental approach to curating which calls for direct interaction among participants.

Sure, you could curate an exhibition like everybody else: pick a theme, commission a few artists, and then sit back and wait around to sip your plastic cup of Cabernet on opening night.

Or, you could curate like Geoff Manaugh.

(D)evolved Interiors

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October 14, 2010
On a calm street, blocks from the auto hum of Wilshire and Fairfax, a 1930s architectural classic plays portal to another era's drug surreality. Within the walls of Rudolf Schindler's Buck House lie '60s decay and dystopia, a bizarre mix of science, government and psychoactive drugs that turned quietly hidden pockets of postwar Southern California into a substance-fueled testing ground for the expansion of consciousness.

This is ostensibly the former home of one Dr. Arthur Cook, a CIA-sponsored psychedelic drug-testing psychologist — who never actually existed. The remnants of years of drug manufacturing, experimentation and use scattered throughout its rooms and hallways, apparently abandoned for decades, are actually an elaborate new installation from Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman, "Bright White Underground," at Country Club L.A.

LACMA as Musical Instrument

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September 22, 2010
Buildings, of course, have acoustic properties. But what about acoustic potential?

Musician and recent high school graduate Ben Meyers has carved himself a niche by using buildings and their various surfaces and surroundings as musical elements. His most recent performance: a song performed with his mallets and drumsticks on Renzo Piano’s new Resnick Pavilion at LACMA, which opens to the public early next month. A video of the piece, called Playing LACMA, was commissioned by the museum. “No one takes a second during the day and thinks of all the sounds that can be coming from their surroundings.

Brave New Codes

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July 8, 2010
Cities and towns across the country are abandoning conventional zoning codes in favor of a New Urbanist alternative, the form-based code. Some architects have embraced the change, but others are wary.

Nobody ever really reads a zoning code, unless you want to rewrite it. That’s what the city of Miami experienced over the past five years as it replaced its old zoning code with a new one, dubbed Miami 21.

“I’ll tell you one thing: Miami 21, everybody read,” says former Mayor Manny Diaz. “From commas and semicolons to substantive provisions.”