Top Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of April 8, 2013

Gensler on types of urban interface. Manaugh looks at Arctic instruments. Preservation Nation features church like no other. Earth day with Ayers Saint Gross and Living Classrooms. The Dirt shows the power of flowers.



Urban interface. Sarah Mathieson, an architectural assistant from the Gensler London office, discusses how the London office explored how education campuses interact with their immediate surroundings, or what they call the Urban Interface, as part of the Education Practice Area Next Gen Initiative.

The group identified a series of Urban Interface typologies that define these current and future campus trends:

  •  Suburban/Rural: Has dedicated facilities separated from the surrounding environment, allowing for multiple interactions between educators and students; establishes a clear institutional identity but offers less real estate flexibility and less accessibility if the student is off campus.
  • Urban Cluster: Offers real estate flexibility, allowing for interaction with educators and accessibility both on and off campus. As students are more dispersed, however, interactions between them are fewer, and the sense of institutional identity isn’t as strong.
  • Urban: Has dedicated facilities allowing for interactions between educators and students and is accessible on and off campus, as it is based in the community. It offers less real estate flexibility.
  • Virtual: Possesses no real estate but is accessible from anywhere. As the institutional identity is digital, it is thus not part of the greater community.
  • Global: Real estate accessible in multiple locations exports the institutional identity and allows for interactions between educators and students. This reach could be seen as diluting the offer (exclusivity).

Via Gensleron Cities


Arctic instruments. Geoff Manaugh writes about at a trip students from the University of Lund School of Architecture took to the Arctic island of Svalbard last autumn led by David Garcia.

Students flew up to visit "the far north, beyond the Polar Circle, to Svalbard, to study the growing communities affected by the melting ice cap and the large opportunities for transportation and resources that the northeast passage now offers," researching first-hand the "urban structures in the extreme cold" with Arctic instruments.

Via BLDG Blog


Historic church gets mural makeover. Graffiti artist Alex Brewer, also known as HENSE, took to Washington, D.C.’s city streets last year to transform an abandoned, historic church into a work of art.

In several weeks, HENSE dove into his imagination and conjured up the beautiful, vibrant mural that now envelopes the church.

“Most of the tools I use in my murals and paintings are the same tools I learned to use by working in the street in the early years. I use rollers, brushes, spray paint, inks, acrylics, mops, enamels, paint sprayers and other various mediums and tools… Recently I've been experimenting in treating my exterior works similarly to my paintings.”

Via Preservation Nation Blog


Living classrooms. In honor of Earth Day, 14 volunteers from Ayers Saint Gross had the unique opportunity to help build 23 floating wetlands that will be planted and launched into the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 20..

Spearheaded by Living Classrooms and Biohabitats, the project will support the city of Baltimore’s effort to make The Harbor swimmable, healthy and fishable by 2020.

Via Ayers Saint Gross Blog


Flower power. Tyler Silvestro, a master’s of landscape architecture candidate at the City College of New York (CUNY), examines the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), one of the Earth’s greenest buildings and the latest addition to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Richard Piacentini, executive director of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, says the primary drive behind the Center for Sustainable Landscapes is to function “as elegantly and efficiently as a flower.” While the merits of this approach can be questioned, the pure essentials of this poetic gesture are there.

Via The Dirt




Blog Post Roundup for Week of Feb. 18, 2013

HOK's secret to productivity. Manaugh and the fifth wall. Lake|Flato on the environmental imperative. Deep fried America by HDR. Gensler's maximum connectivity. 130225

Secret to productivity. Daphne Kiplinger, who works in HOK’s Washington, D.C.’s office, explores increased productivity and relaxation in the workplace, citing in recent article in the New York Times.

“No matter how productive we are, we cannot come up with more time.  What we can control, however, is the amount of energy we have to spend on accomplishing these tasks. Energy may not be infinite, but it is renewable, and it is in our power to find ways to renew it.” – Daphne Kiplinger

Via HOK Life

Relax, You’ll Be More Productive Via New York Times

The fifth wall. Geoff Manaugh examines Petro Vlahos, who passed away this week and was "the pioneer of blue- and green-screen systems" in cinema, of highly specific recoloring of certain surfaces in the everyday built environment that allows "filmmakers to superimpose actors and other objects against separately filmed backgrounds" to walls that aren't really there.

While “these sorts of walls and surfaces are not architecture, we might say, but pure spatial effects, a kind of representational sleight of hand through which the boundaries and contents of a location can be infinitely expanded. There is no "building," then, to put this in Matrix-speak; there are only spatial implications. Green screen architecture, here, would simply be a visual space-holder through which to substitute other environments entirely: a kind of permanent, physically real special effect that, in the end, is just a coat of paint.” – Geoff Manaugh

Via BLDG Blog

The environmental imperative. Bob Harris, a partner at Lake|Flato, discusses in a video how people find themselves living in deprived nature conditions, but how designers of the built environment can learn to reconnect people to land, beauty and themselves.

“Certain individual designers possess a particular bio-intuition that manifest itself in what has become known as biophilic elements of design. Could this explain why such works of design universally appeal? It may be that through a better awareness of our own cognitive wiring we might learn to reconnect to a beauty in nature that we have forgotten and build places that speak to the soul.” – Bob Harris

Via The Dogrun

Deep fried America. Steve Goe, Director of Healthcare Strategy at HDR Architecture, writes on how the future need for hospitals will be substantially reduced and restricted to the care of the most acutely ill patients who require intensive care and monitoring, providing challenges for health planners and architects to create spaces that are intended to transform as health delivery evolves.

The County Fair, where deep fried treats are introduced, is one example of people not taking responsibility for their health and contributing to the epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases. Healthcare facilities may become like “retail malls, where the procedural rooms, imaging and intensive care beds are the anchor tenants, and the rest of the facility is constantly changing its ‘stores’ over time through tenant improvements.


Maximizing connectivity. Hao Ko, a principal and design director in Gensler’s San Francisco office, discusses the new corporate headquarters of NVIDIA, a Silicon Valley visual-computing pioneer, and how the new facility reflects their core belief that their people are their greatest asset.

Gensler is designing a building that allows staff to work together more efficiently while capturing the culture of their work—a building that is a physical manifestation of the soul of their company. Phase 1 of the new headquarters in Santa Clara will be a two-story building where the experience of moving through the building is one of unimpeded flow for the estimated 2,500 building occupants.

Via GenslerOn Work