University of Pennsylvania architecture student Jonathan Dessi-Olive, this year’s winner of the Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) Travel Fellowship, and three of his colleagues are taking an ancient building technology to Kenya this summer to demonstrate a sustainable alternative to wood construction, which contributes to the devastating deforestation problem in the region. The project, a hybrid wind- and solar-powered radio station on Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria, will introduce local craftspeople to the 600-year-old technique of timbrel vaulting, a system that uses thin clay tiles to create a geometrically-complex and structurally strong building.
This October, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon—a biennial competition encouraging schools from around the country to create affordable, solar powered, Net Zero houses—will be held outside of Washington D.C. The new location, in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, gives SCI-Arc and Caltech a distinct home field advantage. The team of 16 SCI-Arc and 20 Caltech students is creating a fascinating structure, called DALE, which stands for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment (their last entry was called CHIP.. get it?) that could only be possible in the moderate Southern California climate.
The latest Shigeru Ban paper tube building has opened at IE University in Madrid, Spain. Elsewhere, Ban built the paper tube Nomadic Museum in New York City on a Hudson River pier in 2007, a Camper retail store in New York’s Soho neighborhood, and now in Christchurch, New Zealand he is constructing an A-Frame cathedral out of the temporary, eminently efficient material. The Madrid University building took only two weeks to build, is based on sustainability objectives, and there was a requirement that it be a temporary construction. It is made of 173 paper tubes held together by timber joints that rest on paper columns.
Michael Speaks, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design, has just been appointed Dean of Architecture at Syracuse University. Mark Robbins left that post to direct the International Center of Photography in New York. Speaks, who has been at UK since 2008, cited a number of initiatives as his legacy in Kentucky, including many that engaged directly with urban and rural issues in the Commonwealth. “I arrived here at an inauspicious time, a very economically challenging one, ” he told AN. “One of our goals was to make sure that as many studios engaged with real world problems as possible.”
One of the most important components of any architecture school is its semester-long lecture series. It’s a chance for schools to bring in voices from outside their building and communicate to students a broad range of approaches and ideas percolating in the culture and profession. Many schools send out posters of these lectures to other schools across the country to announce their programing and these are posted on hallway walls for all to see even if they are thousands of miles away on another coast.
But now City College of New York’s Spitzer School of Architecture has taken the next step and is simulcasting its lectures live online for the public to view. Old lectures will be archived and viewable any time. This semester City College is focusing its lectures on Rethinking Kahn and have scheduled a distinguished line up of Louis Kahn scholars including Stanislaus von Moos this Thursday, February 28 speaking on Kahn’s urban projects. On March 7, Ken Frampton will be speaking on monumentality in Kahn’s work. March 21 will feature Gina Pollara who will lecture on New York’s FDR Memorial on Roosevelt Island and its construction. After that Robert Twombley and William J.R. Curtis will lecture. On the Friday after William Curtis’ lecture, there will be a discussion between William Curtis and George Ranalli and Rethinking Kahn.
Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania have been at the forefront of the education of American architects since the late 19th century. This past weekend, the University’s School of Design held a two day conference, Architecture Education Goes Outside Itself, on the evolution of architecture education in the past century-and-a-half from the first “school”—a correspondence course created in nearby Scranton, PA.
A group of young scholars selected, and perhaps inspired, by Penn professor Joan Ockman (whose important new book, Architecture Education: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America, thoroughly covers the subject) presented papers on America’s always-evolving efforts to initiate and rethink the education of architects.
Once upon a time, being at SCI-Arc meant development was a four-letter word, and developers were akin to the destroyers of cities. Eric Owen Moss, SCI-Arc’s director, played a significant role in changing that perception by working with developer Tom Gilmore, who, since 2001, has also been on SCI-Arc’s board of trustees. Mr. Gilmore, founder of Gilmore Associates, is a former architect, so he has a great appreciation for architecture’s potential, especially in formerly blighted areas of Downtown Los Angeles, where his vision has been unfolding since the early 1990s. This might explain why he recently included SCI-Arc in his estate plans by setting up an endowed chair to the tune of a cool $1 million, the first gift of this magnitude the institution has ever received.
The gift will fund the Gilmore City Chair, a position dedicated to supporting educational initiatives focused on the dynamics of urban development around the world. Moss, in an expression of gratitude quoted Machiavelli, saying, “I believe the greatest good to be done is that which one does to one’s own city.” Further details regarding the scope of the Gilmore City Chair will be forthcoming and may even be revealed by Mr. Gilmore himself when he presents a public lecture at SCI-Arc this Wednesday, February 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Our favorite new naming triumph: SCI-Arc’s “Hispanic Steps.” The new indoor amphitheater, paid for in part by a recent ArtPlace grant and located in the middle of the SCI-Arc building in Los Angeles, is used for lectures, performances, symposia, film series, and community meetings. At a recent meeting to discuss SCI-Arc’s Arts District plans that are also part of the $400,000 ArtPlace grant, officials posed on the newly completed steps for a photo. Included are SCI-Arc’s Chief Advancement Officer, Sarah Sullivan (front center) and Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Bennett (upper right).