They’re back! Positive numbers for the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) jumped up in August to 51.4 from a dismal 45.1 in July where it had been stewing in negative land for months. (Anything over 50 indicates positive growth.) Together with a sharp rise as well in Project Inquiries to 56.9 (up from 53.7), the good news seems cautiously solid. “This turnaround in demand for design services is a surprise,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. Regional averages, however, remained below the positive bar across the country indicating that firms generally are still struggling. These numbers predate the next injection of stimulus money—whatever shape it takes—which will be sure to give another jolt. Unless, of course, billings are tracking the roller-coaster antics of the stock market.
“The stock market is doing what the economy is doing which is not moving solidly in one direction, either way,” Baker said by phone. “The stop-start that we have seen over the past two years is going to stay with us. I would love to believe that these latest numbers are the start of a Grand Recovery. And maybe they are. The evidence is just not there yet to be sure.”
Tonight in New York, Gary Hustwit’s new film Urbanized will make its U.S. premiere in front of a sold out crowd at the Sunshine Theater. Hustwit has just released this trailer for the the final segment of his design-inspired trilogy which previously included Helvetica and Objectified. After New York, Urbanized heads out west to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and more before moving back across the country in October. Check out a full listing here and don’t miss our interview with Gary Hustwit where we ask him about his film.
DesignNYC, an organization connecting New York designers with nonprofits, community groups, and city agencies, presents its current cycle of projects under the banner, “Recharging Communities.” In designNYC’s second annual exhibition, eight teams showcase their in-progress collaborations including among others: Educating Tomorrow, which uses communications design to establish an online forum on sustainability issues for NYC educators; the Greenhouse Project, which creates an urban farm in an unused lot in East New York; Nostrand Park, on the development of an engaging urban corridor in Crown Heights; and PortSide New York (above), a project enhancing a boathouse and community center in Red Hook.
Today the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced their 22 new fellows, including Chicago architect Jeanne Gang. Congratulations to Jeanne and everyone at Studio Gang. Best known for the Aqua Tower, the firm has generated consistently innovative solutions for houses, community and cultural projects, beginning, most notably, with the Starlight Theatre in 2003 all the way through their contribution to MoMA’s Foreclosed exhibition, currently in development. One of the most prestigious awards in the country for artistic, intellectual, scientific, and professional achievement, the MacArthur also comes with a $500,000 prize, doled out over five years.
Migration melee. Migratory birds continue to fall victim to the glass facades comprising invisible and impenetrable forest of buildings in New York City. Bird advocacy groups and planning and building commissions are beginning to take notice. The New York Times investigated this ecologically sensitive dichotomy.
Let there be light. MIT students and the MyShelter Foundation, a non-profit aimed at creating sustainable communities, have joined forces to light up the Phillipines. This capable collaboration has created an innovative way to bring light to notoriously dark cities outside of Manila. The result? The Solar Bulb. Core77 explained this simple and ingenious amalgamation of water, sealant, bleach and a plastic bottle.
Road to Africa. While perhaps not on the immediate horizon, urban thinkers and This Big City are looking at Africa and its potential for economic development. With all of our hindsight in the world of urban planning, is it any wonder that we do not know where to begin? The photo says it all.
Parking Paris. French and Swiss architecture outfits AWP and HHF have collaborated to out-design competitors and take home the privilege of creating all of the infrastructure buildings at Paris’ Parc des Bords de Seine. DesignBoom looked at this series of low-cost, modular structures that will bring new residents to the park to eat, play, and watch birds from a second-story platform.
File under: “Say What?” Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has joined the jury for the Pritzker Prize. Prize organizers say the Justice has a long and demonstrable interest in architecture. Who knew? Also joining the jury is 2004 laureate Zaha Hadid. Is it just us, or does it seem strange for Zaha to be upstaged by a guy in a black robe known for his rigorous legal scholarship and even temperament? Read More
The season got off to wet and windy start with the launch of Urban Design Week. We started in Brooklyn and while the opening of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Jane’s Carousel wasn’t on the official agenda, there were plenty architecture world heavyweights in attendance. AN‘s Julie Iovine got there early to chat with the architect of the carousel’s pavilion, Jean Nouvel. Later, we popped over to the BMW Guggenheim Lab and with minutes to spare even got to hear a lecture over at the Neighborhood Preservation Center.
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to many landmark works of modern landscape architecture. While the names of Lawrence Halprin, Robert Royston, and Dan Kiley may not be known to a general public that just recently latched on to Eames and Neutra, the Washington, D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation is trying to change that. This weekend, it is holding What’s Out There Weekend San Francisco, free tours of publicly accessible landscapes across the region, from San Francisco proper to Oakland down to Santa Clara. Read More
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Mirrored acrylic and strategic lighting transform a temporary space at 50 Walker Street in New York
A collaboration between Nicola Formichetti, fashion director for Lady Gaga and creative director for Mugler, and Gage/Clemenceau Architects, launched Boffo Building Fashion’s second annual installation series on September 8. A reflection, literally, of Formichetti’s work, the two-week installation is a kaleidoscope of nearly 600 mirrored facets that create a 360-degree reflective environment in which to showcase limited edition Mugler fashions and other merchandise from emerging designers. With help from the series’ sponsors and the fabrication lab at Yale, where Mark Foster Gage is an assistant dean, the design team created a new way to see the store’s stock by “dematerializing the fashion into a pattern on the walls,” said Gage.
The man in black designing a Merry-Go-Round seems a jarring fit. But out on the Brooklyn waterfront buffeted by winds on a raw point between the muscular grandeur of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, Nouvel seems just the right man to insinuate something as delicate as a life-size interactive music box into a setting as tough as the Brooklyn waterfront. Read More