Net-Zero Passive House in West Vancouver in Dwell

An Engineer Builds the Net-Zero Passive House of His Dreams in West Vancouver, Dwell, April 2, 2020. 

James Dean believes his 4,000 net-zero-energy home is the future of construction. Situated on the southern slope of the mountains along English Bay, with three stories of wall-to-wall glass, it gathers effusive sunlight during the cooler months, reducing the need for heating. Terraces flow from each level, blocking direct sun during the hot summer months. 

Built of four-and-a-half-inch prefabricated cross-laminated timbers, the structure was erected in a few weeks rather than months, reducing construction costs and exposure to rain. And the volume is insulated by 17-inch walls, which retain heat and virtually eliminate thermal bridging—the conduction of heat through the building envelope—to maximize comfort.

Countryside, unnatural nature in Abitare

“It’s the kind of show we should wish architects engaged in and museums sponsored constantly, asking big questions that go far beyond the scope of the building project or the display of collections. The exhibition speaks to how we make the world, for whom, and what are its consequences.”

Neri Oxman's Art and Matter in L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui

Neri Oxman's Art and Matter, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui 435, March 2020.

“Other ethical questions are evoked by an experiment like Wanderers, unveiled in 2014 for an exhibition in Berlin: here the lab combined cyanobacteria with e. coli that lives in our digestive systems, developing a series of abstract futuristic wearables. Her MIT lab is equipped with specialized biosafety rooms to protect against spread of the potentially hazardous bacteria. Playing with the danger of contamination and the beauty of fluorescence that could arise in materials through interaction of the microorganisms with interplanetary environments, the project brings to mind the doomsday bunkers of the superrich that abandon humanity to protect a few.

Notably, funding for Oxman’s research intersected with a major scandal at MIT last year: acceptance of $125,000 for the lab—and much more by Media Lab—from Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire influence peddler and convicted sex offender, which resulted in an uproar of protests by students, resignation of Media Lab director Joi Ito, and an apology from Oxman.

Another source of revenues for the lab has been the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Department of Defense’s program that funds development of military technologies: her collaborator synthetic biologist Christopher Voigt belongs to teams that won a $32 million contract from DARPA in 2015 and another $9.1 million in 2017. Military and space research frequently provides breakthroughs in other fields—most famously the internet—but it’s worth adding a dose of skepticism to the Media Lab’s techno-optimism, as so much of the electronic media age promoted as the dawning of a new age of enlightenment is being adopted by industries and governments for nefarious purposes and spurring reactionary revivals across the globe.” 

8 Black Designers Whose Socially Impactful Work Challenges the Status Quo in Dwell

8 Black Designers Whose Socially Impactful Work Challenges the Status Quo, Dwell, February 18, 2020.

Places convey whether they are designed for us or not in often subtle ways. Cultural values lurk behind aesthetic choices, and small details signal inclusion or exclusion—both in the development process and the ultimate design. We spoke with eight Black designers whose work manifests social impact, both on a large scale—addressing deep-rooted sources of system injustice—and on a more intimate scale—creating interiors that cause a psychological shift.

The oracular visions of Agnes Denes are on display at The Shed in the Architect's Newspaper

The oracular visions of Agnes Denes are on display at The Shed, Architect's Newspaper, February 7, 2020. 

With its global environmental themes, conceptual graphs of the totality of human knowledge, and exaggerated post-human scale drawings, the exhibition speaks to a millenarianism powerfully present today among anyone paying attention. Yet, much of it she conceived a half-century ago. 

Accessibility by the Book: The Case of Hunters Point Library in Oculus

Accessibility by the Book: The Case of Hunters Point Library, Oculus, Winter 2020. 

The federally mandated requirement for public buildings is the 2010 Americans with Disabilities standards for accessible space. In addition, the City of New York has guidelines in its construction code, which is based on the International Building Code. Dombrowski points out that enforcement of these codes is only by litigation. “There’s no federal entity that goes around and checks buildings to meet the requirements,” he says. “It either comes from a complaint—in this case, a patron of the library could complain to the Department of Justice and say they don’t have equal access, and the Department of Justice would come and investigate.” Otherwise, the local jurisdiction is involved in enforcing its own code during permitting and construction. Most don’t check for these issues, he says.

An Apartment Renovation in Haifa by Michael Peled With Views of the Sea for Dwell

Budget Breakdown: A Gloomy Apartment in Israel Does a Full 180 for $115K, Dwell, January 4, 2020. 

"I said to them, ‘You must turn it all around to face the view,’" architect Michael Peled says. "I told them, ‘I know it’s a really limited budget for this project, but the main effort needs to be to open all the crucial spaces in the apartment to that beautiful view.’" 

Long-Term Plans: To Build for Resilience, We’ll Need to Design With—Not Against—Nature in Metropolis Magazine

Long-Term Plans: To Build for Resilience, We’ll Need to Design With—Not Against—Nature, Metropolis, January 2020.

Thirty years ago, as a high school student at the Cranbrook boarding school in suburban Detroit, I wrote a research-based investigative report on the environmental crisis for the student newspaper. I had been encouraged to do so by a faculty adviser, David Watson, who lived a double life as a radical environmentalist writing under the pseudonym George Bradford for the anarchist tabloid Fifth Estate. His diatribe How Deep Is Deep Ecology? questioned a recurring bit of cant from the radical environmental movement: Leaders of groups like Earth First! frequently disparaged the value of human life in favor of protecting nature.

Today, we hear some version of this more and more: Earth will continue to exist; nature will rebound, with or without people. It is resilient, we are not.

A Community of Eco-Friendly Cottages by Grigori Fateyev in Dwell

Photo by Scott Benedict

A Community of Eco-Friendly Cottages Pops Up in Massachusetts: Modeled after New England barns and surrounding a shared garden, these sustainable homes form a forward-thinking co-housing community. Dwell, Jan. 17, 2020. 

A developer and interior designer bought the lots in 2012 and hired Hillsdale, New York–based Grigori Fateyev of Art Forms Architecture to design a co-housing community of small-footprint, ecologically sustainable homes on the site. The existing, preserved Victorian on the site was meant to provide shared amenities, but as contingencies pressed against plans, the collection took another form: a set of extremely energy-efficient, 2,000-square-foot homes adopting a near-passive building approach, oriented around an edible landscape on the edge of the Housatonic River. 

Design for Aging in the Big Apple: No Picnic in L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui

The building at 175 Delancey Street recently finished construction within the large-scale Essex Crossing megadevelopment, containing a total of 99 well-appointed studios distributed to qualifying applicants through a lottery system, half of them from the neighborhood, with income-based rents ranging from $396 to $1,254 a month. A medical facility run by NYU is on the ground floor, and the building features planted rooftop lounging areas and a cafĂ©, if you’re lucky enough to win the lottery and you don’t die first. It had 65,000 applicants. The wait lists to get a senior apartment are seven to ten years long, and you can’t apply until you’re 62. My mother’s approval came in the mail about a year after she perished.