Return of a Favorite Son to the Windy City? – CAC’s Barack Obama Library Competition

 

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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.

 

A lot has happened in Chicago as both government and the University of Chicago have taken steps to prepare for the city’s bid. A recent article has described aggressive real estate purchases by the University starting in 2008, including an entire block along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. These could well be attributed to future expansion plans by the University into an adjoining neighborhood, near Washington Park. But many see these real estate acquisitions as part of a strategy to assure the library’s location near the university, where Obama briefly taught in the Law School before going to Washington. In any case, the City also regards the Washington Park and Jackson Park locations on the South Side as the most logical sites for the library.

With the prospect of a presidential library in Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Club (CAC) could not resist staging an ideas competition with the design of an Obama library as the design challenge. As the 2014 Chicago Architecture Prize, this has become an annual event for the CAC, and this time they picked an obvious subject as a winner. Aside from a designated site on the Chicago River, the program was flexible, and participants were asked to fill in the blanks themselves. Although the prize money was relatively modest, the subject matter had to be tantalizing for potential participants. The jury was local, consisting of architects from several of the city’s major firms:

• Andy Metter (Epstein)

• Brian Lee (SOM)

• Dan Wheeler (Wheeler Kearns Architects)

• Elva Rubio (Rubio Studio)

• Geoffrey Goldberg (G. Goldberg + Associates)

• Stanley Tigerman (Tigerman McCurry Architects)

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The results of the competition revealed that the competition was highly successful, in that it elicited a range of ideas, which were not only at the highest creative level, but quite doable.

The two winning entries were by:

Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang, Beijing, China

Aras Burak Sen, Los Angeles/UAE (OMA)

Honorable Mentions

Dániel Palotai, Budapest, Hungary

Drew Cowdrey and Trey Kirk, Boston (Harvard GSD) 


Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, Boston (Harvard GSD)


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A Conversation with an Icon: Steven Holl Wins the Mumbai City Museum Competition

 

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Winning entry by Steven Holl

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?

 

The space program asked for an 8,000-10,000 sqm.(approximately 120,000 sf.) extension to include a conservation centre, library and archives, and a new museum shop and cafe. The new structure was to be freestanding, and thus, not simply a background building, but an architectural statement in itself. What kind of statement was somewhat evident in the choice of the short-listed architectural firms. Not one of those selected could be called a traditionalist, and some could obviously be connected to a certain style. In any case, the participating architects did not have to be concerned about a jury panel that might be leaning toward a traditionalist solution.

 

The short-listed firms were:

• AL_A with PK Das, Arup, Turner & Townsend, GROSS. MAX and Superflux
• Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos with Malik Architecture, Arup and Empty
• OMA + S&K with Meinhardt India, Houtman + Sander, GMD Consultants and Langdon Seah
• Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects with Christopher Charles Benninger Architects (CCBA), Leslie E. Robertson Associates International (LERA), Buro Happold, WORKSHOP: Ken Smith Landscape Architect and George Sexton Associates
• Steven Holl Architects with Opolis Architects, Guy Nordenson and Associates, AECOM, Dongre Project Management Consultants, Transsolar and L’Observatoire
• Studio Mumbai Architecture + Edifice Consultants with Sterling Engineering Consultancy Services and Eskayem Consultants
• wHY with Ganti + Associates, Sterling Engineering, Sterling and Wilson, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Buro Happold, Local Projects and Quantsoft India
•Zaha Hadid Architects with Sameep Padora Associates (sP+a), AKT II, Max Fordham, Dan Pearson Studio and AECOM

 

The competition jury may have been short on architects, but was heavily represented by institutional experts from museums. One interesting choice was museum director Martin Roth, whose Victoria and Albert Museum in London had been the subject of a controversial modern extension in the 1990s by Daniel Libeskind. Initially, the Mumbai Museum was named its London V&A counterpart, but later renamed. The competition was administered by Malcolm Reading Consultants of London, a firm which has gained an international reputation for the organization of such events.

 

The jury panel consisted of:

• Sitaram Kunte – Chair of Jury, the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai and Co-Chairman,Trustee of the Museum
• Tasneem Mehta – Deputy Chair of Jury, the Managing Trustee & Honorary Director of the Museum
• Minal Bajaj, a Director of Bajaj Auto Ltd. and a Donor Trustee of the Museum
• Shyam Benegal, a Trustee of the Museum and a prolific filmmaker
• Homi Bhabha, Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard as well as the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English
• Vishakha Desai, the Special Advisor for Global Affairs and Professor of Professional Practice in the Faculty of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University
• Rajiv Jalota, the Additional Municipal Commissioner, Projects, M.C.G.M., and Trustee of the Museum
• Sen Kapadia, founder of Sen Kapadia Associates
• Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director of the Mahindra Group
• Martin Roth, the Director of the V&A Museum in London
• Aroon Tikekar, the former President of the Asiatic Society in Mumbai, a prolific author, journalist and authority on Mumbai

 

The jury selection process lasted for three days, during which jurors examined the entries and interviewed the participating firms. In the end, the jury was unanimous in awarding the commission to Steven Holl Architects, with Amanda Levette’s AL_A firm receiving an honorable mention.

 

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The Earth as an Affordable Housing Alternative: Ghana’s Mud House Design Competition

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1st Place entry by M.A.M.O.T.H

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. What was the preferred construction method for the winning entries? It could be cob construction, rammed earth, mud brick, cast earth (poured earth) by formwork, or any other earth construction techniques that can be easily learned by local labor. Roofing design could be of vault, fired mud roof, or corrugated zinc sheets, which is the conventional roofing materials, because zinc roofing withstands the heavy rainfall better. As a prototype, the intended solution should be a durable mud house that promotes open source design for the continuity of building with earth for a more sustainable future. The house was to include a kitchen, living area, bedrooms and a toilet. The maximum cost of the house was to be $6,000, for which each entry was required to present a detailed budget. The Process

After a Preselection Jury of experts examined all of the entries, it was charged with shortlisting 20 for adjudication by a Grand Jury. The members of the latter were:
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• Belinda van Buiten, Utrecht, The Netherlands
• Marcio Albuquerque Buson, University of Brasilia
• Mariana Correia, Escola Superior Gallaecia, Portugal
• Toby Cumberbatch, The Cooper Union, New York
• Ahmad Hamid, Ahmad Hamid Architects, Egypt
• Rowland Keable, UNESCO Chair on Earthen Architecture
• Bruno Marques, Oporto Lusiada University, Portugal
• John Quale, Professor, University of New Mexico, USA
• Roland Rael, University of California, Berkeley
• Humberto Varum, University of Porto, Portugal

According to John Quale, he agreed to participate as a juror because he found the topic to be quite interesting. The selection process by the Grand Jury did not, however, take place face-to-face, but electronically. A web interface during the final stages of the process did occur, resulting in the final ranking of the entries. Prof. Quale found this to be an adequate method to adjudicate the designs, as this was obviously a competition with a limited budget, obviating the cost of impaneling the jury on-site. Judging criteria involved the functionality, aesthetics and technical factors to the degree to the degree that the design responded to the design program. The Winning Designs Of the short-listed projects (20), there were three winners. Jurors awarded prizes for first, second and third place consisting of a commemorative plague and cash prizes to the winning designs as follows: 1st prize—$1,500 or construction of the design in Ghana, plus a short trip to Ghana for the opening ceremony once construction is completed (in case the winner is not located in Ghana and to a maximum of 1 person); 2nd prize—Construction or $1,000 and 3rd prize—construction or $500.

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Northwestern University’s Medical Research Center Competition

by Dan Madryga

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The finalists (from left to right): Perkins+Will, Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill, Goettsch Partners

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.

 

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Bienen School of Music © Goettsch Partners
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Kellogg School of Business © KPMB

The new Medical Research Center is a huge undertaking for Northwestern. Once complete it will introduce 1.2 million square feet of state-of-the-art lab space, with which the University expects to attract an additional $150 million a year for medical research, as well as create 2,000 new full-time jobs. Needless to say, the project is at the forefront of the university’s projected master plan.

 

Of course the architectural evolution of any urban campus necessitates some selective purging of the existing building stock. For the Medical Research Center’s central location on the Chicago campus, this has unfortunately meant the loss of Bertrand Goldberg’s 1975 Prentice Women’s Hospital. This move created no small amount of controversy amongst preservationists and fans of Goldberg’s distinctive, sculptural concrete cloverleaf form. Goldberg was a Chicago architect—a protégé of Mies van der Rohe—who also designed the instantly recognizable twin corncob towers of Marina City. Originally hailed for its innovative engineering and striking form, the Prentice took an innovative approach to organizing medical wards in clusters, thus lending to its distinct form. General reactions have always been mixed: for some it was an iconic work of Brutalism, for others it was simply an eyesore. Either way the hospital was clearly dated by the 21st century standards of functionality, and Northwestern’s development future did not include the Prentice.

 

Proponents of the Prentice pulled out all the stops to try and save the endangered hospital. Preservationist groups sought to protect it with a Landmark status designation that was ultimately denied. Chicago’s Studio Gang offered up a striking design idea that would save and incorporate the Prentice into the new research center. The efforts even extended to an ideas competition. In 2012, the Chicago Architectural Club organized “Future Prentice” as the timely theme of the annual Chicago Prize Competition. Entrants were challenged to find creative solutions for repurposing the old hospital building, in hopes that thought-provoking design could spark a useful public dialogue about solutions that went beyond full-on preservation or wholesale demolition. In addition to the 71 entries received, the Chicago Architectural Club commissioned designs from ten up-and-coming local architecture firms. Together these 81 ideas were displayed at the Chicago Architecture Foundations “Reconsidering an Icon” exhibit in late 2012 and early 2013.

 

The Future Prentice entries ranged from compelling yet largely grounded adaptive reuse ideas (the first prize entry by Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta imagines the Prentices distinctive concrete shell as a museum presented amongst the boxy volumes of a new research lab facility), to wildly left-field theoretical concepts (the second prize entry by Noel Turgeon and Natalya Egon, where various architectural additions are vertically stacked upon the Prentice to form a “timeline of trends in architecture”). In the end, the competition might have created an interesting dialogue but not with the people who really needed convincing. Given the longstanding plans to demolish the vacant hospital, Northwestern made it clear that all ideas for saving the Prentice would not be seriously reviewed by the University. Like the attempts to enact landmark status, the Future Prentice ideas competition was too little, too late.

 

Not long after the ideas competition came and went, Northwestern officially released their request for qualifications for the new Medical Research Center, with proposals due in April 2013. The RFQ was sent to 23 architecture firms, six of which were local Chicago firms, and most of which had previous experience in large research and medical projects.

 

Northwesterns program called for a research center that would be implemented in two phases. Phase 1 will consist of a 600,000 square foot, 12-story mid-rise complex to fit the former site of the Prentice, with a groundbreaking slated for early 2015 and completion forecasted for 2018 or 2019. It will also serve as a base for the second phase, capping Phase 1 with a multistory tower featuring even more lab space and offices. It should be noted that there is currently no timetable or funding in place for the Phase 2 tower. Thus it is of particular importance that the design for Phase 1 does not end up looking like a vacant pedestal, should Northwesterns long-term development goals not pan out.

 

The design criteria included: an iconic design that respected the campus context and would be a major asset to Northwestern, the Streeterville neighborhood, and the Greater Chicago community; a building that best met all the functional needs of the Medical School; a building that could be easily implemented in two phases; a design that respected and enhanced the neighborhood connections at ground level (particularly with the labs of the adjacent Lurie Medical Research Center); and a design that provided extensive green space. The University also expected at minimum a LEED silver ranking.

 

Similar to Northwesterns most recent invited competitions, the RFQ procedure was a hybrid between a pure design competition and an interview. Or rather a series of interviews, as the shortlisted teams underwent a series of meetings during the design phase with the client group. The university prefers that the names of this evaluation committee remain anonymous, although Northwestern spokesperson Alan Cubbage has disclosed that the group included members of the University Board of Trustees as well as key administrators of the Feinberg School of Medicine. Two outside architects also sat in as advisors.

 

During these design meetings, the committee offered comments and critiques to each shortlisted team. Northwestern has chosen to keep the specifics of these meetings confidential, but we do know through reliable sources that the each team felt that the evaluation comments were well founded, and that no single competitor was singled out for criticism.

 

By November of 2013, the three shortlisted teams final designs were ready for a final verdict. In a gesture of transparency, Northwestern officially unveiled the resulting shortlist designs in an exhibit at the Lurie Medical Research Center. The university welcomed and recorded comments from faculty, staff, students, and other visitors to this public display. The three projects on display were by Perkins+ Will, Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill, and Goettsch Partners. It is good to see that all three firms have local Chicago offices; it seems fitting to replace a building by the indelibly Chicagoan architect Goldberg with a new generation of successors.

 

A casual observer of the shortlisted designs could be forgiven for finding them all remarkably similar. In fact, no one design stands out as wildly out of the box, an obvious winner. Instead we see three elegant, highly competent, if rather predictable options. Part of this stems from the nature of the building program—the rigid constraints of medical and research facilities often have a way of confining creativity. Theres also the persistent issue of making glazed skyscrapers energy efficient. Each entry uses high-performance building skins, which give them similar façade materiality and depth, not to mention employment of textbook sun shading techniques (cue the obligatory vertical fritted glass fins on the east and west facades). Just as the chunky Brutalism of the Prentice had become emblematic of 1970s modern architecture, the sleek, crystalline forms of the shortlist are very much of our own time. Theres nothing wrong with that, but it would have been interesting to see at least one unconventional curve ball, even if it had no chance of winning the commission. *

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Science and Fiction Museum, Washington, DC

Science Fiction Museum, Washington, DC

By Stanley Collyer

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1st Place entry by Emily Yen (image copyright Emily Yen)

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.

 

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Vienna School of Economics

An Academic Cluster Pointing to the Future

The Vienna School of Economics Campus Plan

By Stanley Collyer

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School of Economics Library by Zaha Hadid (all photos 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 a 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.

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A Challenging Site for Calgary’s New Library: Snøhetta Tops Four Firms in Invited Competition

A Challenging Site for Calgary’s New Library

Snøhetta Tops Four Firms in Invited Competition

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Winning design by Snøhetta (image courtesy Calgary Public Library)

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.

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Adaptive Reuse of a Hospital Site: The Royal Adelaide Hospital Competition

Adaptive Reuse of a Hospital Site

The Royal Adelaide Hospital Competition

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Winning entry by SLASH + Phillips with Pilkington Architects

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.

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University of Chicago North Campus Student Residence

University of Chicago North Campus Student Residence

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Winning entry by Studio Gang with Mortenson Construction—Image courtesy Studio Gang ©University of Chicago

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.

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ADD-ON ’13

ADD-ON '13

Affordable Housing for Cape Cod

by William Morgan

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Winning entry by CxMxD

 

The goal of the Add-on '13 competition was to "seek design proposals for a freestanding, affordable, accessory dwelling unit on outer Cape Cod." Specifically, the town of Wellfleet, Massachusetts has a bylaw that allows a second living unit–and even up to three extra units–on the lot of an existing home. At the moment, the fishing and resort village has a dozen such accessory dwellings. But the nobler aim of the Add-on competition was to "consider the role of affordable housing" in a non-urban context and to "re-envision the relationship between architecture, infrastructure, resources and the land." Despite the seeming modesty of the program–800 square-foot, single bedroom units, to cost less than $150,000, Add-on '13 was a significant contest.

 

 

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