Monday, May 01, 2006


Cesar Pelli Finally Sees "Red"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

National Mall to Become Lunchtime Hangout for Congress
Can you imagine this happening with our political parties?

Monday, March 06, 2006

WOW Tadao!

Well this had tons of coverage in February with its grand opening.
This design is really intriging, at least for me. Ando has managed to blend superbly, commercial and residential design allowing this his work to become a "community within a community".

Twelve floors, six above ground and six below. However it appears from the outside to be a three story building. Another thing I find interesting is that he managed to link the inside with the outside while separating the two and keeping them distinct.

Check it out Omotesando Hills.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


This is absolutely hilarious. It is amazing the things we find ourselves in. Leave it to us and pretty soon we will have a team in every and any sporting event you can think of.

Friday, January 27, 2006


There's been a lot of promo recently regarding the children of the 'baby boomers' getting to retirement age. However most of it has been related to getting life insurance or health insurance policies. You know, the typical T.V. ad. Anyway, I just thought this was a pretty cool article since it deals not with the "imminent death and taking care of you final expenses" line but instead what it means in the architectural world.

Older and WiserCreating Communities for Life
Randolph Jones, AIA, AICP

Young families in the 1950s and '60s dramatically altered the shape of America’s traditional neighborhoods. Sprawling suburban landscapes, the legacy of our parent’s generation, persist today. But, it will be their kids, America’s burgeoning aging population that will usher in a new direction in our patterns of settlement, redefining the very meaning and character of community.

Americans are growing older, in the largest numbers ever. By the decade ending 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates six million persons, ages 16 to 54, will have been added to the working age population. Over the same period, the 55 and over age bracket will swell by 18 million baby boomers, raising the question, Where are we all going to work, live, recreate, and … retire?

Unlike our parents, however, we are not planning to retire, not just yet. As we boomers turn 65, we will remain active, continuing to work at our chosen careers, or turning to other passions—creative pursuits, mentoring, traveling.

Not surprisingly, we’re also healthier than our parents, expecting to live longer, more active lifestyles. Not ready for nursing facilities, or even assisted living complexes, we’re looking to stay connected to our neighborhoods, our cities, and our hometowns. Many of us are empty nesters, rattling around our now-too-big houses, looking for alternatives but determined to stay close to our communities.

As a result, many baby boomers are opting to settle in America’s urban areas and grow old there. The question is whether our future housing choices will be limited to traditional senior living projects that continue to consume our nation’s greenfields at the edge of the metropolis, or will we recast Mr. Blanding’s dream house to better suit our vision of vibrant, compact communities featuring walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income, intergenerational housing in traditional neighborhoods?

Thanks to the smart growth movement sweeping the country, we’re rediscovering our urban neighborhoods and rekindling a strong sense of community. The core principles, building in areas served by current infrastructure and within existing community fabric, make perfect sense for all ages. Growing more compactly supports development of a range of affordable housing options in existing neighborhoods that can accommodate our burgeoning number of seniors, embracing the notion of aging in place. What’s good for our communities will be grand for our aging population.

Why is the concept of community so important to our aging population? We know the aging process is fraught with losses. For an elderly population of unprecedented levels, maintaining family connections, established social networks, and developing new friendships will be critical to managing setbacks due to disconnects that occur as greater numbers of seniors begin living alone, or in group settings.

Creating new housing opportunities and increasing choice for older singles and couples within our existing communities will provide the foundation for a future that allows seniors to stay connected, healthy, stimulated, and active in a larger community. Aging boomers will be seeking and creating those places that feel familiar, safe, and secure, and allow them to remain connected to family and friends, all within a short walk to the drug store and the library.

How will current trends in housing construction designed for aging address the overwhelming need for senior housing within our dramatic new vision of community? According to Moore Diversified Services and the American Seniors Housing Association, which tracked average annual total units between 1997 and 1999, found that the 54,000 units produced during each of these two years dropped to just under 30,000 units per year between 2000 and 2005, resulting in 120,000 fewer senior units over that time period. Clearly, the market is not keeping pace.

Developers are focusing on a very narrow segment of the elderly market, the so-called traditional “senior living products.” If current development trends in housing production for our aging populations continue, new housing will fall far short of likely demand. Projects will be limited to those that carry the lowest risk, are quickest to market, and have the highest rate of return. Risking our future living environments in a commodities market dealing in isolated enclaves for income-eligible seniors is not an option. Major changes in our housing supply, by location, numbers, and types for seniors, will be required.

If we are truly going to create communities of quality, we must deliver more affordable housing, convenient shopping, better access to public transportation, health care, and creational and cultural facilities—all hallmarks of our traditional cities and towns. Our emerging communities, shaped by a growing older and wiser crowd, will feature compactness and mixing of uses, convenience and walkability, and, perhaps most important, economic and social diversity across all ages. The following primer contains advice on what steps will be needed to create communities based on our common interest in a quality future.

As with any retirement plan, boomers creating new communities for the future will need to get their legal house in order, create special tax incentives for elders, invest in retirement accounts, plan for health care, and prepare the family house for sale.

• Get Your Legal House in Order.
The first thing that needs our attention are outdated regulatory frameworks—antiquated zoning and building codes. Short of wholesale revisions to state enabling legislation, zoning overlays within special districts such as downtowns or neighborhood centers are an effective means for creating mixed-use housing and commercial precincts in the traditional form of housing over the "mom & pop" convenience store. Similarly, we need to modify our building codes for older neighborhoods to allow for development of accessory units, or infill granny cottages at the back of existing lots on the alley where small ancillary apartments can be developed.

• Create Tax Incentives for Seniors.
Many communities have adopted various incentives for development that create affordable housing within mixed-use or multifamily housing projects. These techniques could also fund a community’s elderly housing trust, create affordable units for seniors through set-asides from density bonuses for new or rehabbed housing, or with a twist on new market tax credits, provide elderly housing within our existing neighborhoods.

• Invest in Retirement Accounts.
Infrastructure investments, particularly in public transit, are the smart growth equivalent of your IRA. More compact growth in existing urban areas, coupled with transit-friendly residential and commercial uses near transit stations, will help create new transit-oriented villages that build community. Achieving our new vision for the future will require significant new investments to better serve our regions and emerging neighborhoods.

• Plan for Health Care.
Staying healthy through exercise and diet is the best health insurance our aging boomers can buy. The shape of our metropolitan regions and provision of accessible open space with walking, biking, and hiking paths, are critical to the well-being of our citizens. Imagine being able to leave our compact neighborhood and join the morning walkers on the river greenway loop trail.

• Get the House Ready for New Buyers.
By now we have our plan well under way. New zoning is in place. Our incentives are attracting lots of senior development proposals, and transit-oriented villages are springing up in our communities. We have acquired key open space parcels that will double as wetland protection areas and provide handicapped access into the nature preserve. It’s time to prepare our house for new buyers because the range of new infill housing available for boomers has blossomed—senior apartments; affordable units in mixed-income, mixed-use complexes; granny cottages; accessory units; and new market rate townhouses.

Our healthy, active boomers who comprise the lion’s share of the elderly housing market, will be scanning our new community’s local real estate ads, and finding, ample listings for “affordable, mixed-income, intergenerational housing, conveniently located near shopping, transit, and the library.” As predicted, the older and wiser generation will have succeeded in transforming sprawling suburbs into compact vibrant, 21st century neighborhoods, each with a newly awakened sense of community.

(Article may be found at

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works.”
- Jan Gehl

"By the 60's American values had begun to catch on (in Copenhagen, Denmark) - separate isolated homes and everyone driving. The city was suffering so, how could we reverse these patterns? We decided to make the public realm so attractive it would drag people back into the streets, whilst making it simultaneously difficult to go there by car" (Gehl, 1992).

Just some thoughts on places and spaces. While doing research for my thesis I did some reading on Jan Gehl and his ideas and research on public space. I found Life Between Buildings to be a really good read.

In the second quote above he speaks about "American Values" and how they began affecting the city life of Copenhagen, I can see this applying to many of the Caribbean islands today.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I sort of stumbled on this article and felt that some of the responses were quite interesting. I'm always interested in hearing how female architects interpret aspects of the field as opposed to the male point of view. Anyhow just a little thought provoking reading.

HARVARD DESIGN MAGAZINE # 20, Spring/Summer 2004
Ten Questions for Thinkers About the Present and Future of DesignBeing as specific and detailed as possible, please answer the following questions in 500 to 1000 words for each. If you need to slightly alter any questions to make them more fitting for your thinking, please do so overtly. You are invited to answer one additional question that you invent. Feel free not to answer up to four questions.

Answers provided by Zaha Hadid & Patrik Schumacher

1.) What do you think are in your country the most important current issues or challenges for architects, landscape architects, and/or urban designers (hereafter called "designers"), and why?

There are no nationally specific challenges for architecture today. Our divers cultural backgrounds really fade into the background as we cope with the challenge to creatively interpret the next stage of our internationalized post-industrial civilization. We work globally – however only within the most advanced metropolitan centers. We are true cosmopolitans who would like to refrain from speculating about the influence of local national experiences. Any such speculation can only serve to distract from the issues of the current metropolitan condition.
The key challenge which we perceive for our own work concerns the architectural contribution to a multi-valent, layered, and dynamic urban society. We have to deal with social diagrams that are exponentially complex when compared with the social programs of the early modern period. The apparent chaos of cities like Tokyo acts as paradigmatic condition. We perceive here the challenge to develop a rich and nuanced language of architecture that can serve to register and order this apparent chaos in a legible way. Instead of relishing in chaos or going for a rearguard minimalist reduction of complexity the attempt is made to process and articulate more information into a more complex order – facilitating swift orientation despite the higher informational burden.
Thus our work is focussed on the attempt to develop a new language of architecture that is able to organise and articulate an increased level of social complexity. This includes the attempt to organise and express dynamic processes within a spatial and tectonic construct. This ambition operates on many scales: from the organisation of whole urban quarters, via various building scales, down to the interior furnishings. The challenge is to increase architecture’s capacity to spatialize and articulate the complexities of contemporary life processes with its multiple interpenetrating agendas.

2) What recent architecture, landscape architecture, and/or urban design projects or kinds of projects do you consider best and/or most important, and why?

We are accepting the distinction between avant-garde and mainstream architecture. This distinction is important in order to evaluate a project. Different (but related) criteria have to be applied. The mainstream project has to be judged with respect to the application of best practice standards to a given concrete task. The significance of the avant-garde project can not be reduced to the contribution it makes to a given concrete life process. Rather it is pointing beyond any concrete problem towards the potential for new generic resources (formal/organizational repertoires) for the future problem solving capacity of the discipline. Its value resides in its manifesto character. Originality and innovative potential is more important than the actuality of its performance. Such projects are investments that might be redeemed in future mainstream practice.
We are working in the avant-garde segment of the discipline and profession. The discourse of architecture with its apparatus of publications is doing a good enough job at identifying original and forward looking projects. There is not much to be gained by picking a specific example here. The usual suspects are really the only examples around. No surprise discoveries should be expected. Important work is identified even if the outspoken reasons for its evaluation are often somewhat mystified and fetishistic. This fetishism is a function of the fact that actually realized value is sacrificed for the mere potential of future use-values.

3) What recent design projects or kinds of projects do you consider overrated, and why?

No comment.

4) Do you think the social and cultural influence and power of designers are increasing, decreasing, or steady? How would you describe the level and kind of that power and influence? How far apart are the realities and the ideal?

It is difficult to generalize here. In fact we make quite different experiences with different projects. The power of the architect very much depends on how the client is constituted/organized and on the tightness of the regulatory environment. In the US and Britain the architect usually is called into a very tightly structured process with clear objectives and leadership already in place from the side of the client. On the European continent the architect is expected to take on more of a leadership role – both in terms of conceptualizing the project and in terms of leading the process of the project development. However, there are still differences between France, Germany and Italy. In Italy we have had the most free and satisfying relationship in developing the project in a productive collaboration with the public client (ministry of culture).
In China we are facing a most interesting client keen to import our expertise – however not without strong opinions. Here it seems the field is wide open for far-reaching, large scale experiments – as long as the project can be coupled with an effective marketing strategy.

5) To what extent can and does design (all others factors being equal) affect the quality of life of individuals, small groups, and/or large groups (such as the residents of a city)?

As designers we have to operate with the working hypothesis that design matters immensely. This is the only viable heuristics for architecture. The difference that design makes manifests itself most strongly in an arena of rapid, massive development like China. Here the market is expanding and differentiating with a breathtaking speed. Three years ago a system of morgages was introduced. This unleashed a huge wave of buying residential property. There seems to be an enormous need and desire that is fuelling a construction boom in residential estates. Shopping for houses is becoming a new national sport. The aspirations of peoples lifes seems to center upon the character of their homes and its environment. Buying a house is a major event in the biography of those young couples who are the main demographic group of buyers. This massive market pressure coupled with the ability to appropriate land and invent large urban or semi-urban environments brings design to the forefront. This does not only concern the individual units but also the collective spaces and the whole ambience of a newly designed pieces of the city. The succeeding marketing strategies are verified by way of drawing the hard won resources of the buyers representing a hugely important aspect of those people’s aspirations. It is quite exciting to be asked to compete in such an alert and excited market.

6) Do you think designers can and should play an important role in preventing and/or reversing degradation of the natural environment? If so, what role? If not, why not?

We do not think that the discipline of architecture can really take on this agenda of the preservation of nature. Architecture is about the creation of artificial , social habitats – mostly urban. Architecture might exploit and co-opt the natural environment for the purposes of creating effective environments for the various societal processes that need to be given room to flourish. The natural environment becomes a domain of architecture only to the extent that it is drawn in to play a role in the overall construct of society’s habitat – not to the extent that it wants to be left alone. Certain aspects of environmental sustainability can be represented within the design-process by bringing in respective specialist engineering disciplines. For architecture with its focus on performance with respect to the facilitation of (specific segments and institutions of) social life environmental sustainability is just one more constrain (like the budget, or constrains of available construction methods etc.) that might be imposed as a limitation. This does not exclude that some architectural researchers might take on these constrains as primary concerns to develop models of environmentally sustainable buildings. Such attempts are useful experiments. For us however, this to foreground this agenda would be a distraction from our primary investigation into the possibilities of retooling the discipline to cope with more societal complexity.

7) What seem like promising new roles, activities, and territories for architecture, landscape architecture, and/or urban design in the next decade?

There are two ways of locating the most interesting and rewarding arenas for avant-garde architectural work. Innovation is always suspended between two poles: the investigation of the domain of problems on one side and the expansion of the domain of potential solutions (and techniques of elaborating solutions) on the other side.
On the side of techniques and solutions there is still a lot of work to be done in exploring the expanding domain of digitally based design and manufacturing tools. On the side of problems and challenges for architecture one of the most exciting domains might be corporate re-organisation where new concepts (matrix organization, network-organisation, self-organisation) and new complex and dynamic patterns of collaboration are still begging for a congenial translation into spatial systems.
At the same time as a restless society pushes architecture by posing a new set of characteristic problems, the new digital design media and the micro-electronic revolution pulls architecture into an uncharted territory of opportunity. The key question here is whether the exploration of the new creative opportunities can be directed towards offering new architectural resources that can help to answer the problems thrown at architects today. Within the discipline of architecture this polarity of innovation has often been an occasion for a productive division of labour between the analysis of new societal/programmatic demands on the one side and the proliferation of new spatial repertoires on the other side. Embodied by Dutch avant-garde and the US avant-garde respectively, both aspects have been pursuit semi-independent from each other, with considerable success. This however, lead to two opposing ideologies, perhaps equally one-sided. The independent elaboration of the two domains begs the question of their synthesis. The synthesis requires a broad-minded as well as light-footed oscillation between the two domains. This is no trivial matter, but itself an act of creative intelligence. There are no one-to-one correspondences between "problems" and "solutions". No obvious matches anounce themselves. Solutions can go in search of problems as well as problems in search of solutions. What we call design research is the attempt to systematise this oscillation within a well circumscribed frame that narrows down both the realm of problems and the realm of solutions.
However, this demand of synthesis should not be misunderstood as a demand to abolish the initial or parallel bifurcation of the research agendas. This bifurcation is a necessity in the attempt to cope with and process the challenges posed by a rapidly evolving society.

8) What do you consider the strengths and weaknesses of design education? How might it be improved?

Although we are both teaching we are perhaps not the best placed to comment the requirements of education. Teaching - for us - is research rather than education. We are using the various graduate programs which are teaching as semi-detached research departments. Obviously in the process young architects are also developing their skills and architectural intelligence in ways that make them attractive collaborators after their tenure as students has been completed.
The teaching of architecture has traditionally been operating on the model of apprenticeship. To a certain extent this still continues, inevitably, as architecture is a profession as much as a discursive discipline. Since the Renaissance this practise of apprenticeship has been combined with the dissemination of theoretical treatises. On this basis a formal education was first institutionalised in France with the founding of the "Academie de l'architecture" in 1671. Academic teaching was adopted in England and America at the end of the 19th Century and is now everywhere the primary mode of professional training. However, there is as yet no institutionalised form of research in architecture. Instead the task of innovation within architecture is left to the "avant-garde" segment of architectural practise on the one hand, and to post-graduate architectural education on the other hand. Each of these two surrogate processes has its peculiar limitations. Avant-garde practise, as professional practise, is struggeling to turn any particular commission into a vehicle for the investigation of new architectural principles that might be abstracted and generalised. This in turn demands the renunciation of full attention to all aspects of the concrete project at hand. Also, the establishment of a coherent research agenda across a random string of commissions is rather difficult. An academic institution is unconstraint with respect to the establishment of a coherent research agenda, but a special effort is required to steer a course that remains relevant to the concerns of society. A severe limitation for research in educational institutions resides in the short-term tenure of the student-researchers and the attendant burden of taking on a whole new generation of students/researchers every year. However, the institutions of post-professional education seem to offer the most promising opportunities to construct a systematic research practice within architecture.

9) Do you think that design is any more subordinate to profit-driven business than it was thirty years ago? If so, what, for you, are the implications?

Everything in the contemporary world is more subordinate to profit-driven business than thirty years ago. The causes of this fact operate at a very deep level of contemporary civilization – both in terms of the patterns of material reproduction as well as on the level of fundamental social relations associated with these patterns. The era dominated by a largely state-planned welfare economy is over – also with respect to the construction of the built environment. Commodification continues. However, not all segments of the architectural market are subjected to this logic in the same way. The avant-garde segment we are working within is given quite a bit more space to manoever than the mainstream commercial work. This is because our work is considered as a kind of multiplier. Economically our buildings operate as investments into a marketing agenda - e.g. city branding - with a value that might at times considerably exceed the budget allocated to the project itself. Of course we still have budgets to work within – occasionally with some room for re-budgeting. However, our projects are usually not measured in terms of industry standards of cost-effectiveness. Our work is payed for by funds which have been extracted from the cycle of profit-driven investment – either as public tax money or as sponsorship money administered by a board of trustees attached to a cultural institution. Obviously such funds too are indirectly contributing to an overall business rationale. But as designers we can enjoy and utilize the relative distance from concerns of immediate profitability to further our experimental agenda.
We understand that this position is peculiar to a rarefied segment of the profession.

10) What do you think about the gap between popular and highbrow taste in design and how do you think designers should respond to it?

This distinction has been pronounced dead so many times, and yet it does not give up its imposing presence and effectiveness. The distinction is a tangle of inevitable as well as questionable components. There is the inevitable distinction between avant-garde and mainstream – overdetermined by an unfortunate social logic based upon class-differentiation which can only serve as a barrier towards communication. The tangled and contradictory nature of the distinction makes a principled stance difficult, perhaps impossible. The celebration of populism seems as fallacious as the withdrawal into an exclusive elite communication. Yet the discourse (and practice) within and around architecture has to be layered and requires a series of interlinked and interpenetrating arenas of communication. Instead of assuming a divide one might think of a series of concentric circles, or rather a multitude intersecting series. Within each series one might assume a tendency to move towards popularization, however without dissolving the tighter circles focusing on more sustained pursuits requiring a more elaborate, specialist discourse and practice. The distinction between avant-garde and mainstream is made productive in the continuous transference and selection of ideas from avant-garde into the mainstream. This does not exclude the reverse track from mainstream into an avant-garde based reflection of phenomena emerging spontaneously within the mainstream (retro-active manifesto). Thus the distinction serves a certain purpose in structuring cultural practice/communication.

(article taken from