Notes from the AIA: Tepid Outlook for 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Recent AIA billings report.

Yesterday we attended a sobering panel at the AIA convention entitled The Construction Outlook: Implications for Architecture Firms. Presented by the AIA’s Chief Economist Kermit Baker and McGraw-Hill Construction’s Vice President of Economic Affairs Robert Murray, the panel crystallized the problems that continue to plague the architecture profession. In short, while the downturn has ended, the upturn, which is indeed inching along, is coming along VERY slowly, or as Murray put it, we’re facing “an extended bottom.” Projected 2011 growth for U.S. construction starts is 1%, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. The high points are multi-family housing, which are projected to see a 22% gain, Manufacturing building, which could see a 24% gain, and commercial building, which is set to see an 11% jump. Other high points include urban infill, adaptive reuse, renovations, and sustainable design. Perhaps the biggest loser in the coming year will be public work, which is seeing cuts across the board due to debt issues. The AIA’s Billing Index has edged just barely into slightly positive territory after three years of steady declines, said Baker. Read More

Eight Celebs Who Take High Speed Rail

Courtesy John H. Gray/flickr and Michele Asselin/Arrive

Courtesy John H. Gray/flickr and Michele Asselin/Arrive

The current state of rail is nowhere near its heyday in the 20th century, when train travel was luxurious and serviced most parts of the country. But high speed rail is making a comeback, championed by planners, environmentalists, and the Obama administration.

The mode of transport still has to contend with car and air travel (along with a reputation for inconsistency and irrelevance), but it got some help in March, when a commercial featured Mad Men‘s Pete Campbell and Harry Crane building a campaign for high speed rail. And Amtrak still has an surprising roster of famous passengers, which includes Angelina Jolie, Jesse Jackson and John Travolta, according to forums on and Check out these celebrities who take high speed rail:

8 famous Amtrak passengers

Inside Osama bin Laden’s Compound

International, National
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Where was the world’s most wanted terrorist hiding all these years? Osama bin Laden’s final hiding place was a mansion in Abbottamad, an hour north of the capital Islamabad, according to the New York Times. The paper reports:

It was hardly the spartan cave in the mountains that many had envisioned as Bin Laden’s hiding place. Rather, it was a mansion on the outskirts of the town’s center, set on an imposing hilltop and ringed by 12-foot-high concrete walls topped with barbed wire.

The property was valued at $1 million, but it had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection. Its residents were so concerned about security that they burned their trash rather putting it on the street for collection the way their neighbors did.

Read More

McGuigan Tapped to Lead Arch Record


Cathleen McGuigan (Courtesy Architectural Record)

For a 120-year-old magazine, Architectural Record went impressively new-fangled in announcing its new editor-in-chief, Cathleen McGuigan, with word leaking out on Facebook Monday followed by rounds of Twitter and a formal blog posting at the Arc Rec website this morning.

Read More

MoMA To Go House Hunting in the Burbs

Monday, April 25, 2011

(Courtesy The Washington Independent)

The foreclosure crisis has up-ended old assumptions about the relative prosperity of cities versus suburbs. In many regions waves of foreclosures have hit the suburbs hardest. In the second iteration of their “Issues in Contemporary Architecture” residency and exhibition series, MoMA and P.S. 1 will ask five teams to design interventions for five “megaregions” facing high levels of foreclosures. Like the earlier iteration, Rising Currents, the new project, Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream will include a residency and public workshops at P.S. 1, followed by an exhibition and public programs at MoMA. Organized by Barry Bergdoll, chief curator for architecture and design, and Reinhold Martin, director of the Buell Center at Columbia, Foreclosed “will enlist five interdisciplinary teams of architects to envision a rethinking of housing and related infrastructures that could catalyze urban transformation, particularly in the country’s suburbs,” according to a statement from the museum.

Continue reading after the jump.

Signs of Life for Architecture?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

John Morefield's Architecture 5 Cents project captured the feeling of the recession. Are things picking up?

According to Crain’s New York, the city’s five biggest firms began rehiring last year. Kohn, Pederson Fox, Perkins Eastman, Gensler, HOK, and SOM all began staffing-up, though all five firms pointed to international work as driving much of the growth. “New York started coming out of the recession earlier than the rest of the country, and business is improving, but it’s still uneven,” Bradford Perkins, chairman and chief executive of Perkins Eastman, told the business journal. Perkins Eastman added around 30 architects last year. Nationally, billings have been back in positive territory for the last few months, though results vary substantially by region. And today the AP reported that new home construction is beginning to bounce back. Are you feeling a rebound?

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Unveiled>Blaffer Art Museum Renovation by Work AC

Monday, April 18, 2011

The new entrance to the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston. (all images courtesy WORK ac)

The New York-firm WORK Architecture Company is retooling the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston. The intervention, which includes a new entrance and circulation plan, should dramatically boost the visibility of the museum. It shares a large 1970s concrete building with the university’s art school, and it is currently accessed off an interior courtyard.  The architects are moving the entrance to the north side of the building, with a new cantilevered interior staircase serving as a portico. Read More

7 Cities Consider Removing Major Urban Highways

National, Newsletter
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Proposed highway removal along Louisville's riverfront (Courtesy

Proposed highway removal along Louisville's riverfront (Courtesy

In a shift from America’s traditional 20th century landscape, more and more cities are now considering removing major highways in favor of housing, parks and economic development.

The chief motivation seems to be money, according to a recent NPR report highlighting the growing movement and the removal of Cleveland’s West Shoreway. As highways age, keeping them around doesn’t justify the high cost of maintenance.

Check out 7 highway removal proposals across the country

Five Top Firms Looking for Summer Interns

Dean's List, National
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

As spring rolls around, deadlines loom for coveted summer internships. AN has collected a list of five prestigious firms that are looking for their 2011 class of interns. Good luck!

Check out the list (and deadlines) after the jump.

Arts & Letters Announces 2011 Winners

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The bronze doors of the Academy. Courtesy Julia Manzerova

The venerable American Academy of Arts and Letters announced the winners of their various prizes in architecture to an impressive array of writers and practitioners. The judges were Henry N. Cobb, Peter Eisenman, Hugh Hardy, Richard Meier, James Polshek, Billie Tsien (chair), and Tod Williams.

Check out the winners after the jump.

Billings Dips But Stays in Positive Territory

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Billings (blue) and inquiries (red) for the past 12 months. (The Architect's Newspaper)

Billings (blue) and inquiries (red) for the past 12 months. (The Architect's Newspaper)

The Architecture Billing Index (ABI) dropped nearly four points in January, but just managed to stay in positive territory with a score of an even 50 (any score below 50 indicates shrinking billings). The new projects enquiry index also fell significantly from 61.6 in December to 56.5 in January, but remained comfortably in positive territory. Even with the fall in the indexes, the AIA believes the overall trend is stable with mild growth.

Read more after the jump.

Mr. Peanut, Bring on the Nut Mobile

National, Newsletter
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We love food trucks. But none of them have really pushed the design envelope as far as the classics like the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. In that spirit we welcome the re-fashioned Nut Mobile, from Planters Peanuts. The truck—an Isuzu with a peanut-shaped fiberglass exterior—features a slew of green features: it runs partially on biodiesel fuel, it has a wind turbine, solar panels, LED lighting, and recycled parts.  The truck, which replaces the company’s yellow hot-rodded Nut Mobile, will be on tour throughout the country in the coming months, including an appearance at the Global Green Oscar pre-party tonight. And just for good measure, below are a few of our other favorite food-shaped trucks. Are you watching, food truck designers? Read More

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