LACMA as Musical Instrument

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

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.”

Out-of-This-World Cup Stadia in South Africa

June 11, 2010
A look at four interesting stadia designed for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and their uncertain futures after the Cup.

Americans do like soccer, contrary to what many around the world believe. American architects, though? Hard to say. But even for the most soccer-agnostic architects, there are four good reasons to watch — or at least glancingly pay attention to — this year’s World Cup in South Africa. Four of the 10 stadia designed or renovated for this year’s quadrennial World Cup really are worth checking out beyond the context of international soccer matches.

Specifically Speaking

March 30, 2010
California's general plans get more prescriptive

In California, general plans define where growth should happen and what types of land use should be permitted in cities. But despite the “general” in their name, the plans are assuming an increasing amount of prescriptive detail, especially in terms of urban design. Cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Sacramento are taking their general plans along a design-heavy path, well beyond the traditional zoning and land use–based requirements.

Want the Medal? Keep the Metrics

January 20, 2010
If you’re being taken for granted, it can be hard to tell. Just ask the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED certification system.

For years, as more and more flashy new buildings lined up for their bona fides, LEED routinely allowed them to stand on its shoulders and reap the benefits of sustainable credentials and higher property values. But once the certifications had been awarded, did those buildings look back? Did they keep the green promises they’d made?

“It’s been like an arranged marriage. You go to the ceremony, then never see each other again,” says green building consultant Jerry Yudelson about LEED, now in its third major iteration. “That’s not the way it’s going to be going forward.”

The New 'Urban Community' On The Las Vegas Strip

December 16, 2009
Hey, Las Vegas. Good to see you! Tough break about all those foreclosures... But, hey, I hear you've got a new mega project opening up. That's cool! I bet those other broke cities are super jealous. Yeah, this new project's gonna bring you back to glory, eh? Oh, what's that? What did you just call it? CityCenter? The Capital of the New World? An urban community? Let me stop you right there.

I'm not sure if you've been to a real city before, Las Vegas, or if you know the definitions of the words "urban" and "community", but what you've got on your hands with the recent opening of MGM Mirage's CityCenter is neither a city, urban, nor a community.

Now In 3D

August 31, 2009
Could portable, easy-to-print holograms be the next big thing in design visualization?

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” That was the call of desperation from an imprisoned Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movie. She was just 12 inches tall at the time, and she wasn’t even really there—she was a hologram. In the real world, holograms haven’t quite yet reached that level, but they’re getting close...

Watch the video.

Hollenbeck Police Station

August 13, 2009
AC Martin's new police station in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles strives to create a strong sense of community.

When the city of Los Angeles announced it wanted to redesign 13 of the city’s aging police stations, architect David Martin set his sights on a station in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in town: Boyle Heights. “It’s a rough, tough area,” says Martin, principal at local architecture and planning firm AC Martin. “So we thought, of all the sites, we might really be able to make a difference on this one.”

Operation Desert Shed

July 1, 2009
Architect Lloyd Russell’s design for this desert getaway passively mitigates the elements with a utilitarian solution, turning a modest modern retreat into a hardy, region-appropriate home.

The desert is a study in ecological extremes—–a place where the elements of nature and climate are inextricably intertwined with every form of life. In the iconic Southern California desert city of Palm Springs, these environmental factors have long been regarded as forces to be reckoned with and conquered in order to maintain a climate-controlled lifestyle. Beyond the golf courses and swimming pools, though, the desert still exists...

Masterplanning the Architecture of the Near Future

June 18, 2009
As the population rises, underused and empty spaces are going to fill in. How well the transition works depends on shifts in demographics and infrastructure, as well as architecture. A studio of UCLA architecture students were asked to plot that transition. But before they could be architects, they had to be planners.

It started with the masterplanning. Then, there was the city block. Then the buildings took a general form. If there was time, the buildings would get their details, like structural specification. But there wasn't a whole lot of time.

Probably not what you’d expect from an architecture course.