If you’re reading this, you probably have at least a passing interest in architecture and an equivalent understanding of its power to shape and influence the world. But what about those of us living in a world of our own? What about those of us on the autism spectrum? It turns out architecture can play an even more important role in their lives than for us average Joes, according to a Newsweek article (via Archinect) that explains the unexpected attraction of children with autism to SketchUp, Google’s free online drafting program. It turns out that for those on the spectrum, for whom verbal and interpersonal communication has often been challenging, the precision of the computer and the visual nature of SketchUp allow them to express themselves in new ways. Google has been exploring this world for a few years now, as the video above shows, and there is even hope it could help find careers for these aspiring architects. We’ll certainly welcome them into the field.
If you’re wandering the aisles of the Phoenix Convention Center for Greenbuild 2009 this week and need a break from the worthy trade booths, swing by Arizona State University’s Power Plants installation. It’s a mini-environmental system based on a polyvinyl panel with oxygen-rich aloe plants fed by an IV drip. Each structure incorporates a monitor displaying the scope of sustainable initiatives carried out at ASU. The idea behind the pipe is that it creates a structural narrative linking each element of the environmental system, and should be a lighthearted break in the day! The project is a collaborative design led by Jason Griffiths, Darren Petrucci, Phil Horton, and various members of the ASU student body. Also, don’t forget to come to The Architect’s Newspaper’s party tonight (co-hosted with Arup, SWA Group, and KMD Architecture) at Monorchid Studios, 214 East Roosevelt, just a five-minute walk from the convention center.
Planetizen published an interesting piece over the weekend looking at the relative disconnect between sustainability and starchitecture, or how form may have gotten futuristic of late, but not with the future in mind. The article’s a little plodding at times, though the argument is valid and clear:
Many contemporary buildings embody the age-old conflict between individual expression and the common good, while some appear almost antagonistic towards the environment. Frank Gehry’s aluminum billows and Daniel Libeskind’s tilted spires are largely aesthetic accents that use computer-aided design to create forms unbuildable, if not unimaginable, even a decade ago. The sheer expense of iconic libraries, concert halls, and corporate headquarters contradicts environmentalism’s drive for efficiency.
National Trust for Historic Preservation president Richard Moe announced today that he will retire in the spring of 2010. Moe, 72, is the longest-serving president in the organization’s 60-year history. The legacy of his 17-year tenure will likely be his push to bring historic preservation into the mainstream by revitalizing urban historic districts and promoting the environmental importance of saving aging buildings and structures.
“It has been an enormous privilege to be associated with the National Trust over these years,” Moe said in a statement on the National Trust’s website. “It has been the most fulfilling professional experience I have ever had.” Moe went on to say that his departure will present an opportunity for the Trust to seek a generational change at a time when its financial base and its programming are on solid ground. Read More
WIth Halloween just a day-and-a-half away, there’s not much time to come up with a costume if you haven’t already. Our pal Nate Berg over at Planetizen has a rather amusing listing of planning-themed costumes, including LEED certified—”don’t get your platinum certification mistaken for a silver”—and our personal favorite, FAR—”This costume illustrates the concept of floor area ratio over the course of the night. At first the ratio is low, as you’ll likely be standing and dispersing yourself over a relatively small land area. But by the end of the night when you’re passed out on the floor after the party, you’ll be taking up much more land area and will therefore represent a much higher FAR.” Still, everybody knows architects are more clever than planners, so we’ve come up with five of our own costumes, and we’d also love to hear yours, so leave suggestions in the comments. Read More
The Cultural Landscape Foundation has just launched What’s Out There,a database of landscapes with some sort of historical significance: parks big and small, and various important modern landscapes. Because these public spaces are often part of our quotidian routines, it’s easy to be completely oblivious to the designer or how the space participates in the history of landscape design. Have a look at “What’s Out There”–a wonderful title that positively invites browsing–and learn more about what is just around the corner from where you are. Read More
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released its energy bill today. The main talking point is that the bill sponsored by Barbara Boxer and John Kerry takes a tougher stance on emission reductions than the House bill, shooting for 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, as opposed to 17 percent. But the bills share some comforting similarities, at least for architects. Just like the house bill, which we wrote about in July, the Boxer-Kerry bill includes important measures targeted at buildings, among them stricter building codes and retroactive efficiency standards for retrofitted buildings. Along with the bill passed by the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June, which called for other efficiency standards, Andrew Goldberg, the senior director for federal relations at the AIA, said the Senate stands to create strong, architecturally intensive standards Read More
California designer, spirited artist, and inventive mosaicist and sculptor, Emile Norman died in Monterey on September 24. Norman, who lived in a house of his own design in Big Sur, was an inspiration to artists of all kinds. His large-scale public work was known for being integrated with its architecture, an approach seen most vividly in the recently restored mural at the California Masonic Temple on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Read More
We’ve been paying an awful lot of attention to high-speed rail of late. That’s partly because it’s a pet project of the president, as well as the various regions we cover. Well, bids were due last month for the $8 billion to be doled out in stimulus funds for high-speed rail development (after all, that kinda money isn’t going to go very far toward building any one system, let alone the dozen or so needed to begin supplanting planes or cars), and while the money will likely get split up amongst different states and localities so as not to anger any constituency, the infrastructure-oriented, RPA-affiliated group America 2050 released a report today recommending where best to spend that money, and we’ve got bad news for our colleagues on the West Coast and Great Lakes—it should go right here in the Northeast Corridor. (It should be noted the RPA, like AN is headquartered here in New York, so maybe it’s just bias at play.)
cityLAB, an urban think-tank at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, has announced the six finalists of its WPA 2.0 competition. The competition, which stands for working public architecture, invited designers of all stripes to submit proposals for rebuilding our cities’ infrastructure as a sort of throwback to the Great Depression-era WPA. Juried by Stan Allen, Cecil Balmond, Elizabeth Diller, Walter Hood, Thom Mayne, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the top-six picks run the gamut from heading off an impending water crisis to creating a softer, gentler version of our infrastructure. One finalist, Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies, proposes to harvest CO2 emissions through photosynthesis. Submitted by PORT Architecture + Urbanism, the solution could be rolled out nationwide on coal-fired power plants and toll booths, but the designers also outlined a scheme for creating a public park on floating pontoons between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook, which would harvest emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Read about the other finalists after the jump. Read More
Construction began last month in Natchitoches, Louisiana, on the Louisana State Sports Hall of Fame and Regional History Museum. “What do sports and regional history have in common?” you might ask. Trahan Architects certainly had to ponder this question when figuring out an elegant way to combine the disparate program elements under one roof. In the end they took inspiration from Louisiana’s geomorphology, basing their layout of interior spaces on “the fluid shapes of the braided corridors of river channels separated by interstitial masses of land.” See exactly what is meant by this in the images after the jump. Read More