One of the Bay Area’s most effective urban instigators, SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association) is opening an office in San Jose. The move came about for a few reasons, says the group. First, San Francisco has a declining share of the region’s population, so it makes sense to branch out. And second, most planning decisions are made locally, so SPUR needs to establish footholds in the area’s major cities.
The new branch office was made possible by a successful $1 million fundraising campaign that will fund operations over the next three years. Leah Toeniskoetter will head up the new office and brings a background in real estate and economic development and finance.
“San Jose wants to be walkable, it wants more transit-oriented development and sustainability,” SPUR Director Gabriel Metcalf told the San Francisco Business Times. “In many ways, San Jose’s challenge is America’s challenge.” A move to Oakland could be next on SPUR’s agenda.
Last night, the AIA SF launched a new exhibition, Architecture of Consequence: San Francisco, kicking off a whole slew of events in its annual Architecture in the City Festival, the country’s biggest such celebration of the built environment. The exhibit explores important social needs that architects can address and features the work of four San Francisco firms—Iwamoto Scott Architecture, Fletcher Studio, SOM, and Envelope A+D—side-by-side with four Dutch firms—Van Bergen Kolpa Architecten, 2012 Architecten, ZUS (Zones Humaines Sensibles), and OMA.
As the San Francisco Chronicle‘s urban design critic for the last decade, John King is one of the Bay Area’s most influential champions of good architecture. He chronicles the city’s projects, both large and small, with an eye to how they how they affect the city. (Most recently, he sounded the alarm about how the America’s Cup, with its proposed yacht dock, could change the waterfront for the worse.) His new book of short essays, Cityscapes (Heyday, 2011, $14.95), is based on his weekly column of the same name.
Day becomes night. Alexander Brodsky: It still amazes me that I became an architect will be open at the Architekturzentrum Wien in Vienna, Austria through October 3. Described by the gallery as a “total installation,” Archidose also notes that during the exhibition “the day becomes night, the dimensions of space and time appear to slowly dissolve as one paces an archaeological chamber of wonders. Having returned to daylight, a selection of Brodsky’s completed projects provides insights into his architectural oeuvre.” (More images after the jump.)
Steel becomes ribbon. Streetsblog reports that San Francisco metaphorically cut the ribbon, unveiling a new public space on the two-block Powell Street Promenade. The Union Square shopping district is greatly improved by the eight six-foot wide Walter Hood-designed benches, constructed to resemble delicate ribbons.
Above the fray. The Westerholt E-66 Observation Wind Turbine stands out among the 40 turbines in the Holtriem Wind Park: it’s unique observation deck provides visitors with panoramic views of one Europe’s largest wind farms—for a price. Visitors must climb a 297-step spiral staircase to reach the viewing deck, according to Atlas Obscura.
Under the city. Produced by Silent UK, the documentary film Beneath the Surface trails urban explorers as they descend below the cities of London and Paris, says PSFK. The explorers climb through sewers, old subway lines, reminiscent of the NY Times five-day adventure last December under New York.
Ando’s Silence. According to Dezeen, UK developer Grosvenor has partnered with the Westminster City Council on a project to open public space in Mayfair, London. The project aims to reduce unnecessary visual elements like signage and expand pedestrian areas. Architect Tadao Ando collaborated with firm Blair Associates to design Silence, an installation that intermittently produces fiber-optically illuminated vapor rising from the bases of trees.
Power Plant Printer. MIT News has revealed an exciting new technology: printable solar cells. According to MIT: “The basic process is essentially the same as the one used to make the silvery lining in your bag of potato chips: a vapor-deposition process that can be carried out inexpensively on a vast commercial scale.” So, not quite as easy as, say, printing out a power station on your inkjet, but still able to revolutionize the future of solar installations.
Building for Birds. The City of San Francisco is making an example of a new California Academy of Science building. It’s design for the birds. The San Francisco Chronicle notes the building’s innovative fabric screen deterring bird-on-building collisions could be applied to other structures in the city. “Bird-safe design” is a growing part of the conversation, but the question remains: will altering the transparency of urban glass structures detract from the design intent?
Déjà vu Design. Does that new building look strangely familiar? A new website called Post Post bills itself as the “comparative architecture index.” By juxtaposing projects of similar design languages or forms, the site hopes to “to illuminate the interwoven and complex relationships of congruous trajectories within contemporary architectural practice.” Have a look!
Major in Glasgow. The Guardian reveals images of Zaha Hadid‘s new Riverside Museum in Glasgow, which highlights the machinery, technology, and history of transportation. Pictured above, the museum reflects the shipyard structures on its grounds. The Guardian‘s Jonathan Glancey writes, “Riverside blends into the climate and culture of Glasgow and its riverscape, feeling like part of its great flow of architecture and history.”
How to be quick. With the new East River ferry, which will be the fastest way to make it to work? To be sure, the Gothamist conducted a commuter race. The ferry was a lovely time to rest but a bit of a steep investment, biking a slightly more dangerous route, while the subway remained the quickest method, getting one commuter to work not only on time but with two minutes to spare.
Making Space. SF streets blog shares a new project generously offered to the city by Audi, announcing more to come for San Francisco pedestrians. The Powell Street promenade will bring public space to the commercial downtown, part of a set of P2P (Pavement to Parks) projects to create green space in major cities including San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.
The Rome Prize. The Rome Prize fellowship for architecture goes to Lonn Combs. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor and principal at New York based firm EASTON+COMBS will take the upcoming year to continue to explore the work of Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi. Congratulazioni!
Missing Parklet. Who would steal a parklet? The Oakland Local spotted a worried Facebook page for Actual Cafe whose parklet, pictured above, disappeared last week. San Francisco is the city that invented the parklet concept–transforming parking spaces into extensions of the sidewalk–and we hear they’re quite popular, so what gives? The cafe has security footage of the early-morning incident.
Celebrating CityGarden. St. Louis’ much acclaimed urban sculpture park, CityGarden, has been awarded ULI’s 2011 Amanda Burden Open Space Award, named for NYC’s Planning Commissioner who sat on the selection jury. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the garden topped projects in Portland, OR and Houston to claim the $10,000 prize.
Chatham Scratched. DNA reports that plans to transform Chinatown’s Chatham Square at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge have been put on hold. The $30 million project would have reconfigured the busy confluence of seven streets to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety, but with other construction projects already clogging the area, the city didn’t want to make matters worse. Funds will be used for other Lower Manhattan projects instead.
Directing Traffic. Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has penned a feature-length article on the future of transportation for the Wall Street Journal. In recounting the good, the bad, and the ugly of transportation policy, Puentes calls for innovation and sustainability along with increased access to boost the economy.
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Polycarbonate sheets become an interactive bench, part of Fort Mason Center’s upcoming SEAT exhibition.
San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center will be the stage for an outdoor chair show set to open June 23. Called SEAT, the yearlong exhibition is being curated by artist and landscape designer Topher Delaney, of Seam Studio, and will include work by more than 40 designers, artists, and architects. Each team was given a site on the former Fort’s 13-acre waterfront campus, which now serves as an arts and culture venue. As one of the invited participants, San Francisco-based Nilus Designs is preparing an interactive piece called W.E.T: West End Terminal, an anthropomorphic bench created with carefully stacked strata of clear twin-wall polycarbonate.
Transit Surprise. The Atlantic has the 10 best and worst cities for public transportation based on a report on transit and access to jobs from the Brookings Institution. The think tank ranked cities by the area served and the share of city jobs accessible by public transit. The results might surprise you: none of the cities with the best public transit are on the East Coast.
HUD in Hot Water. The Washington Post alleged that “HUD has lost hundreds of millions on delayed or defunct construction deals nationwide” in its new investigative series “Million-Dollar Wasteland.” The paper explores, among deals in other cities, a failed project in D.C. where speculators profited at the cost of millions for the city government.
Graceland Saved. The flooding along the Mississippi River has spared Memphis’ key historic landmarks. According to NPR, Graceland, Sun Studio (where Elvis Presley recorded), and Stax Records (which launched Otis Redding’s career) were unharmed. But some of Louisiana’s most valuable farmland is expected to be inundated by rising waters.
Interior Award. Bar Agricole in San Francisco won the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Interior, reported Fast Company. The restaurant, which serves French-inspired food sourced from local farms, features billowing glass sculptures, walls lined with strips of oak from whiskey barrels, recycled oak seating, and concrete banquettes. Restauranteur Thad Vogler collaborated with Aidlin Darling Design, which received co-ownership for its work.
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Ribbon-thin Ductal concrete creates sculptural seating at a San Francisco eatery.
The Aidlin Darling-designed Bar Agricole has brought new life to a warehouse in San Francisco’s industrial South of Market neighborhood. Built in 1912, the renovated building is now home to the 4,000-square-foot “urban tavern” owned by restaurateur Thad Vogler. Taking an unconventional approach to realizing his design vision, Vogler commissioned work from the designer and a variety of trades in exchange for a stake in the business. One of those craftsmen was Oakland-based concrete design and fabrication company Concreteworks.
Continue reading after the jump.