Mesa's Answer to Urban Sprawl
The Major Redesign of a City Center
by Stanley Collyer
Designing a city plaza as a “people place” is no small challenge. One only has to recall the various redesigns that Pershing Square in Los Angeles went through, or Seattle’s Pioneer Square, to recognize how intent and reality were often in conflict. In both of these temperate climate municipalities, the image of an otherwise welcoming destination was tarnished by an unforeseen presence of the homeless.
The City of Mesa, in sunny Arizona, believes that a new plaza, well connected to the surrounding urban environment, can present “a signature public space” that will not only serve as a destination for public activities, but also as a catalyst for downtown revitalization. It would appear that a number of favorable conditions already exist: city administration buildings are located directly within the two block site area; Arizona’s largest art center borders the area to the south; and the city library is in the block immediately facing the site to the north. With this kind of built-in pedestrian activity, the site should be well positioned to attract a higher-than-average number of locals and visitors.Read more...
Return of a Favorite Son to the Windy City?
CAC’s Barack Obama Library Competition
Winning entry by Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang (all images courtesy of the CAC)
During the 2008 presidential campaign, there was the perception that a Barack Obama presidency would usher in an era of new ideas. Years later, there has been some isolated progress, but partisan politics has limited any wiggle room an Obama presidency might have enjoyed. Still, there is a hope for a final decision by this president that could set a precedent for the foreseeable future: a design competition for a presidential library. A successful national competition for such a project could set an example to be emulated many times over at state and municipal levels by a tested democratic process.
Although the site of a Barack Obama Presidential Library has not yet been determined, the list has been whittled down to three possibilities: Chicago, New York and Hawaii. Although Hawaii is the President’s birthplace, and New York would have a large number of visitors, Chicago would seem to be the logical favorite, as it is the place where Obama’s political future began in its meteoric rise, culminating in his election to the nation’s highest office.Read more...
A Conversation with an Icon
Steven Holl Wins the Mumbai City Museum Competition
The decision to stage an international competition for a “North Wing extension” to the Mumbai City Museum had to be an interesting challenge for the organizers. The present building, also known as the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (photos, left and opposite), was dedicated in 1872 and had a distinct English colonial flavor, with emphasis on the Victorian. It had recently undergone a major restoration, and the interior is certainly one of the major examples of architecture of the pre-modern age in India. With that in mind, the initial question for any structural addition—aside from space requirements—had to be: what should it look like, and how would it relate to the existing museum?Read more...
The Earth as an Affordable Housing Alternative
Ghana’s Mud House Design Competition
For years, the earth has long been the basic construction material for houses in rural Ghana. Although 98% of the houses in the Abetenim area of Ashanti province—typical of warm, humid climate conditions—are made of earth, stereotypes about this building type persist because of eroding which takes place from poor construction and water damage. This has resulted in a stigma associated with mud architecture and the local perception that mud architecture is only for the poor. Instead of earth, metal and cement block have become the material of choice—at a considerable expense.
In light of this problem, the Nka Foundation, a non-profit organization dealing with art and design in Africa, staged the Mud House Design Competition—to encourage designers, architects and builders to use their creativity to come up with innovative designs for modest, affordable homes that can be built locally. The focus of the design was to aim at creating a single family and semi-urban house type that would be a place to live, a place to rest, store modest belongings, and feel safe.Read more...
From Icon to Functionality
Northwestern University's Medical Research Center Competition
by Dan Madryga
Northwestern University is getting a major architectural facelift. Over the past few years, the university has staged several invited design competitions for large-scale building projects on its Chicago and Evanston campuses. A new 152,000 square foot building for the Bienen School of Music and Communication, designed by Goettsch Partners, is currently under construction and slated to open later this year. Meanwhile the 410,000 square foot Kellogg School of Business—for which Toronto firm KPMB beat out Kohn Pedersen Fox, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, and Pelli, Clark & Pelli for the commission—is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2016. As large as these projects are, Northwestern’s most recent invited competition dwarves them both in scale, budget, and ambition: a brand new Medical Research Center for the Feinberg School of Medicine.Read more...
Science Fiction Museum, Washington, DC
By Stanley Collyer
The recently completed Science and Fiction Museum competition in Washington, DC is not unusual, in that it contemplates the marriage of literature and architecture in one location, as do libraries. It is different in that it deals with a very specialized theme, much as the Poetry Museum in Chicago. Still, Science Fiction is a relatively recent phenomenon in literature, but has rapidly gained a large audience. Although there is already such a facility in Seattle, it was time that an institution focusing on this subject to be located in our nation’s capital—a primary destination for tourists.
To start, this emerging non-profit has been seeking a site in Washington, DC, and, until that occurs, is planning an easily accessible temporary structure, which can be moved from one location to another—the subject of this 2014 design competition.
The competition drew 121 entries from all over the world, with the first- and second-place winners residing in the U.S. The entries were adjudicated by a largely local jury from the Washington, DC area. And the competition was ably administered by local architect, Jerry Vanek.
An Academic Cluster Pointing to the Future
The Vienna School of Economics Campus Plan
By Stanley Collyer
At the turn of the 21st Century, the Vienna School of Economics (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien), the largest of its kind in Europe, was bursting at the seams. Over 23,000 students were scattered throughout different locatons in the city. When it became obvious that it would be necessary to consolidate the programs at a central location, the decision was made to select an area near the Prater for the new campus—the site of the World Exhibition Area and Fairgrounds. The building program was ambitious, with a number of facilities planned to accommodate all the programs, and the strategy was typically European, as student dormitories were not envisaged as an integral part of the overall campus plan.
To begin with, a local Viennese firm, BUSarchitektur, was engaged to complete a masterplan for the site, and aÂ number of renowned architects were then commissioned to design the various facilities: No.MAD Arquitectos, CRABstudio Architects, Estudio Carme Pinós, Atelier Hitoshi Abe, and BUSarchitektur, the latter local firm being the author of the masterplan.Read more...
A Challenging Site for Calgary’s New Library
Snøhetta Tops Four Firms in Invited Competition
The site of Calgary’s new public library will occupy part of a city block, directly across from the City Hall. One might assume that a project of this size would have deserved a more spacious, flexible site. However, the location the library here was regarded as an important urban statement, not just for downtown Calgary, but also for the East Village neighborhood. That the intended site was also home to a trolley line was not enough to cause the City to abandon this strategy. According to the client, “The location of the new library, adjacent to City Hall, will strengthen the fabric of community life by weaving East Village, the original heart of Calgary, back into the story of Centre City. From this prime location, the library will not only serve Calgary’s growing population but also the 140,000+ workers and students who travel downtown every day.”
Locating a main library in the center of a metropolitan area, regardless of the density issue, is a logical solution. The location of the new Grande Bibliothèque by Patkau Architects in Montreal’s downtown is a great example of what a major public institution can do for a neighborhood. In that case, a nearby Metro line has made the library easily accessible to most of the city’s inhabitants. It can be assumed that the same will hold true for Calgary.Read more...
Adaptive Reuse of a Hospital Site
The Royal Adelaide Hospital Competition
As a building type, hospitals have an unfortunate propensity toward early obsolesce and therefore are often the target of adaptive reuse, if not total demolition. This has been the case in Adelaide, Australia, where the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) is being replaced by a brand new structure, to be dedicated in 2016. Faced with this impending change, the South Australian Government decided to initiate a “design led engagement process to explore possibilities for the current RAH site.” A significant element in this process included an international open ideas design competition, and the focus of this competition was “to create an iconic place within the Greater Riverbank Precinct of Adelaide.Read more...
University of Chicago North Campus Student Residence
Like many American universities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the University of Chicago viewed Gothic architecture as a recognizable symbol to suggest academic excellence in the tradition of Ivy League universities and Oxford. In this, Chicago was not alone, as other schools used a similar formula to imply a connection to a pre-existing academic tradition—Duke University and Butler University in the 1920s being prime examples. As time passed, and to accommodate Chicago’s reputation architecturally as a forward-looking community, the university gradually hired contemporary architects such as Eero Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe, Edward Larrabee Barnes, Walter Netsche and Harry Weese to add to the university’s built fabric. Beginning with the early 21st century, the look on the campus has been updated even more to reflect current trends with buildings by Cesar Pelli, Helmut Jahn, Rafael Viñoly, Joe Valerio, and most recently, the musum by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.Read more...