Musings


As urban areas are becoming more desirable places to live, more building is occurring to accommodate the needs of new and future residents. As the money/economics allow for the growth, the growth will continue. I wrote here about the economics behind high rise developments.

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Rendering, Fordham Spire, Chicago IL

In many locations, the current building boom is the market correcting itself – making up for lost time, when progress and change was unable to happen (sometimes due to over priced land in an undesirable location) for a number of years.

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View of model, Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn, NYC

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I feel like I’ve been a little out of the loop lately, so I’m going to hit a few high points today.

Chicago has won the U.S. bid for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. April 22nd Chicago Tribune Arts & Entertainment section has a number of brief opinion pieces regarding the Olympic Arts Festival portion of the bid. On the architecture side of it, Blair Kamin advocates for the city to be a living museum, and by incorporating current/future technologies (podcasts, for example) to highlight our architecture and history through actual interaction with it.

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Chicago skyline
Luke Tozer, partner at British architecture firm Pitman Tozer architects, is working on his own little (8′ wide) eco house. Great article at The Independent. Great info on ground source heating.

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Geothermal diagram
Read about the progress on Kreuck and Sexton’s Spertus Institute over here. I wrote about this back in October. I’ve been by it in person recently, and it is delightful!

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View of Spertus facade, courtesy Lynn Becker.

My career recently took a detour, and for the moment I’m working at a Landscape Architecture firm. The work is pretty interesting and it jogged my memory to a lecture I attended this fall by Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf, and thought I’d share some of my notes and thoughts here.

In his lecture here in Chicago last fall, Piet did a brief overview of a couple of his local projects, and discussed his design process in general terms. The majority of the lecture was essentially a primer on the elements of plants he considers when he is designing, primarily the significance of each type of plant form. I’ve listed a few examples below, but I would definitely check out his books for further information.

Spires are a dominant form and reach toward the heavens.

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Umbels are the counter balance of spires (above), and keep the eye at a certain level

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Daisies remind us of the sun

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This fantastic slide show exhibits Oudolf’s birth-life-death design principles supporting the overarching theme of year-round interest in the garden. I am enamored with his one-ness with plants. His delightful concepts result in rich, interesting, beautiful, natural and unique gardens.
Recent large scale projects employing his principles include:
Along with Kathryn Gustafson, the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millenium Park (A fantastic gardener’s take here)

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Battery Park, NYC

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High Line Team, competition winner

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Laurie Olin, FASLA, established the first incarnation of his firm, Olin Partnership, in 1976. More than thirty years later, Mr. Olin has developed landscapes and master plans for universities, international companies, government bodies and numerous other clients.

“The firm takes a long term view of design, believing that strong, clear schemes supported by innovative detailing and fine, lasting materials are essential to melding social needs with physical resources. Design that provides functional accommodation, symbolic meaning, and aesthetic richness can make timeless human environments.” From Olin Partnership “Philosophy.”

Past projects include University of Pensylvania master plan, Art Institute of Chicago gardens, and Battery Park City master plan. Current projects include…
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Atlantic Yards,

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and Washington Monument modifications.

Olin has long collaborated with Peter Eisenmann. “During their twenty-five years of collaboration, Olin and Eisenman have developed a unique approach to site development where neither the building nor the surrounding environment is given priority,” from Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.
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From ICA:Fertilizers: Olin / Eisenman

In addition to these large and highly visible projects, Olin continues to teach and write, influencing future generations of Landscape architects.

I’ve recently come across two academic explorations into sustainable housing, one in Chicago: IIT’s Urban House 1 (Green Bean writes about it) and one outside of Austin, Tx Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (Architecture Week covers it here).

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Urban House 1

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CMPBS laboratory
I think both of these explorations are critical to making green building more accessible to the general public. I appreciate the efforts in both veins, the research efforts intending to yield practical applications (CMPBS), and the actual implementation of said research in the market (IIT). These are ways for the academic institutions to make a more direct impact on our world, by moving the center of attention outside of the individual designer/architect outward to the community, the environment.

One of my favorite designers, Hans Wegner, passed away at the end of last month. A Danish furniture designer, making some of the most beautiful, comfortable, organic and modern pieces. Pieces still in production can be found at Carl Hansen & Son.

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Architectural Record reports on recent developments and concerns over at Atlantic Yards.070124gehry1lg.jpg
I would have to agree with Gehry’s opinion that “the project would be more successful if parts were farmed out to other architects, permitting a variety of styles more akin to an authentic cityscape.” This is the case for most developments – part of the appeal of cities is the diversity, not only of people, but of spaces and contexts. Having worked on larger developments, it is difficult for one office to produce successful variety in it’s designs. Design has a certain inertia, and once one establishes a particular style or approach to a site, aesthetic diversity is near impossible without it becoming some strange stage coach city.

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