Heading into the holidays, the AIA has more good economic news to report: the Architectural Billings Index (ABI) has recorded a third straight month of growth. The October score was 52.8, up from September’s 51.6 (any score above 50 indicates a growth in billings). The uptick reflects improving conditions in the housing market and real estate more broadly. All four regions were in positive territory, with the South leading at 52.8, followed by the Northeast at 52.6, the West at 51.8, and the Midwest at 50.8.
A veteran of architectural and cultural programming, Gregory Wessner, has been named the executive director of Open House New York (OHNY). Wessner, the longtime director of exhibitions and special projects at the Architectural League of New York, will begin working at OHNY in December. He sees a growing civic role for the organization as it moves into its second decade.
Amid the chaos following Hurricane Sandy, including the blackout and closure of The Architect’s Newspaper offices in Lower Manhattan, we were shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of the visionary architect and educator Lebbeus Woods. Known as one of the most provocative thinkers in architecture, Woods was also unrivaled in his generation as a producer of architectural images, especially his darkly rendered drawings.
A long time professor at the Cooper Union, Woods’ work extended well beyond the academy, inspiring other architects and even Hollywood (he sued the makers of 12 Monkeys for stealing his ideas and won, and he consulted on the opening sequence of Alien 3). The winner of a Chrysler Design Award, his drawings are included in the collections of numerous museums, including MoMA. A full obituary by Sir Peter Cook will follow in an upcoming edition of AN.
Pritzker winner Peter Zumthor will be awarded the 2013 Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal, according to Building Design. Known for his meticulously-wrought projects like the thermal baths in Vals, Switzerland, the Brother Klaus Field Chapel in Eifel, Germany, the Bregenz Kunsthall in Austria, and the witch trial memorial in Norway, Zumthor is now designing a major expansion at LACMA. “We debate each of the six shortlisted candidates in turn then look at their writing and their influence in acadaemia, but there wasn’t one clear person who stood out,” RIBA president Angela Brady told BD.
It’s been a hot and highly stimulating few days at the Venice Biennale. David Chipperfield’s theme, “Common Ground,” which sought to establish connections across architecture culture, has proven surprising divisive. Some loved the elegant progression of projects in the Arsenale, which included everything from expressionist displays by Zaha Hadid, to neo-postmodern confections by FAT, to a hand built house by Anupama Kundoo, all of which managed to mingle thanks to Chipperfield’s tasteful curation.
Some formalists griped that the show was regressive, while more socially engaged architects thought it too estheticizing. Still, every Biennale must crown its winners. This year’s Golden Lion for the international exhibition went to Torre David/Gran Horizante by Urban-Think Tank (Alfredo Brillembourg and Herbert Klumpner) and Justin McGuirk, an investigation, featuring photography by Iwan Baan, of an informal community built in an abandoned, unfinished skyscraper in Caracas. The team created an bar inside the Arsenale which featured food, music, drinks, and neon lights to showcase their work and transform the atmosphere of the overall exhibition.
The AIA’s monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for July came in with a disappointing 48.7 (any score below 50 indicates a decline in billings for design activity). The news was not all bad though. The ABI was up significantly from last month’s score of 45.9. “Even though architecture firm billings nationally were down again in July, the downturn moderated substantially,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker. “As long as overall economic conditions continue to show improvement, modest declines should shift over to growth in design activity over the coming months.”