Brotherhood Sister Sol in Oculus

 

Brotherhood Sister Sol: In West Harlem, Urban Architectural Initiatives makes architecture for social change, Oculus, Summer 2022.



The young, fashionably dressed Black and brown teens hanging out on the front benches of Brotherhood Sister Sol (BroSis) in West Harlem give its new headquarters a particular power and resonance. Designed by Urban Architectural Initiatives, a minority-owned office co-founded by Tony Shitemi in 1996, the five-story structure is built for Black and Latinx youth. That alone is extremely telling, and it shows. The members of the youth mentoring, organizing, and training organization radiate a sense of ease and belonging.

“Their mission is to provide a space that fosters good health, good mental health, and good sense of well-being,” Shitemi says. “We took that up as the building being a tool to promote well-being and positive selfhood.”

The headquarters, which opened in May on 143th Street near Hamilton Place, replaced a three-story brownstone that had served the organization for roughly 20 years. As it grew, BroSis acquired the neighboring lot with plans to expand. With help from city and state funds along with foundations and private donors, it combined the lots into a single structure. The front fa├žade’s formalistic skin syncopates opaque and translucent glass and tan limestone-colored panels to reference the fingers of a hand—reaching out to the community, giving a hand—offering a mixture of privacy and public visibility in daylit rooms.

On Architecture Schools and Professional Practice for Oculus

 

The Pipeline: Are Employers' Needs Being Met by Architecture Schools? Oculus, Summer 2022. 


The work culture and technological needs of the architecture office have noticeably changed in recent years, and it’s worth asking if architectural education has kept up with the profession. It’s not just the rupture of the pandemic, which gave greater credibility to concerns about the health and well-being of everyone, shifting the ground under architecture’s traditionally exigent office culture and requiring increased sensitivity on the part of bosses. And it’s not just office workers, interns, and recent graduates whose labor environments have been affected. The value of living happily, protecting a healthy work/life balance, promoting diversity and equity in the workplace, and limiting the potential harm caused by the stereotypically competitive, sometimes cutthroat field: these points of contention, consciousness-raising, and demand on the part of students and labor organizers have spilled over into a more general reassessment of the limits of professional ambition in the business of architecture.

Gone, to a large extent, is the assumption that all-nighters, endless workweeks, unpaid internships, and uncompensated overtime are normal occupational hazards one must inevitably endure to prove one’s love, passion, and desire for advancement. The real scandal of architectural historian and theorist Marrikka Trotter’s statements during a SCI-Arc panel in March about the exploitative work environment students can expect is that she was describing an accepted norm, up until very recently, and one that still persists widely. To borrow a phrase from the journalist Michael Kinsley, a gaffe is what we call it when someone accidentally tells the truth.

Meanwhile, some architecture firms are asking questions that go against the grain of these cultural trends: Are architecture schools adequately preparing graduates for professional practice? Why are students not trained to be proficient in Revit, for instance, when it has become the standard tool required by design offices—especially large ones with complex projects involving overlapping specializations and contractors? These concerns lead to the long-standing question about the role of architectural education: Should it prepare designers to be attractive hires for practical office work, able to enter into production on building projects immediately? Or should it equip them with a deep, critical knowledge of architecture, its history and possibilities, stimulating them to use their imaginations beyond production of built environments?

“People have complained back and forth since the first departments of architecture were established in the U.S.,” says architectural historian and SCI-Arc head of research Erik Ghenoiu. “William Ware at MIT and then at Columbia fought for intellectual training, and the practices protested, but then later didn’t like it when they got students who were not generally educated. Professional practice is no longer the only solution for architecture education. We graduate many more students than are needed in the industry, and we need people who can move fluidly between scales and types of practice from architecture to startups to gaming to policy. Providing that is a better service to the students, giving them access to a broader way to define their careers.”


For the Birds at Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Architect's Newspaper

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For the Birds, now on view at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, explores biodiversity through architect-designed follies, The Architect's Newspaper, Jul. 11, 2022. 


For the Birds opens a space for visitors to think about how we can build in a way that enhances the natural world we belong to and on which we depend. Despite its avian theme, For the Birds is really for the people to think about birds, rather than for birds themselves. The distinction matters: While the Environmental Protection Agency protects nature for human use, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforces the 1966 Endangered Species Act. Concerns surrounding biodiversity are newcomers to the ongoing conversation on sustainable design. Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring initiated a movement to curb agriculture pollution, but there have been few similar moments of ecological awakening for architects. One product-based example is the campaign to popularize the use of bird-safe glass in tall buildings. The rewilding movement, which pushes for extensive wild spaces within human inhabitations to accommodate other species, is gaining ground in Europe. It’s not much of a stretch to argue that biodiversity should be part of the building code and incorporated into all planning decisions.


 

Achille Boroli, Between the Mountains and the Sea in L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui


 

Achille Boroli, Between the Mountains and the Sea, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui: 449, Jun. 2022. 


SZ: During the tasting, you describe the way sunlight impacts the grape on one side of the hill or another, the process of fermentation and malolactic fermentation, aging in casks and in a bottle, and when you open the wine, how the taste changes over 10 or 20 minutes. These are phenomenological things that have to do with how we experience taste and the world around us. 

We have to think about the wine as life. Wine starts to be a baby when it is in the barrel, and then you put it in the bottle, age the bottle, and try to bring it up to when it is ready to drink. Sometimes you say, it is too young. 

Wine has an influence on where you are, how you feel, if are tired, if you are happy. It’s something that is very personal. I had a 2005 bottle of Barolo for a tasting. When I opened the bottle, a client said it was a bit closed, we need time. I said, this bottle is 17 years old. For 15 years, it has been closed in the bottle, and we want it to be ready in five seconds. Think about when you stay closed in a room, open the door, and light comes in. You need a moment to breathe again. And the wine is the same. 

Wine needs oxygen. It’s not a dead object. It’s not immaterial. It’s an object that has a life; it’s made of a material, it’s a fruit, it’s coming from fermentation. You have a million living parts that have a function. We have to understand the best expression of the grape to have the best experience of the wine. It’s a complexity of many details to have the best expression of a bottle of wine, especially the Nebbiolo. 

SZ: When I talk to people working in agriculture, there’s a real clash of culture between cosmopolitan people and folks who live in the countryside. But when you’re working in agriculture, your closeness to nature gives you a concern shared with city folks: care for the well-being of the planet that supports humanity, plants, and animals. 

Of course, there is a difference between people who live in the city and people who live in the vineyard. We work every day under the sky, so we perfectly understand all of the terrible consequences of global warming, the dangers of bad weather and pollution. I was looking at the soil today and saw that there was absolutely no humidity in the fields, and this is a big problem for me. For a guy who works in an office in the city, they cannot realize that. 

That can change your mind, looking at nature, because for me it’s a necessary part of my life. I survive selling wine that is a top level. When you have this in mind, you respect more and more the nature where you live. When you go in the mountains, when you go on the seaside, when you go see a garden, you respect all. I am very proud that I live with my feet in the grass in the vineyard. If I didn’t make wine and lived in the city, maybe I would have less respect for nature than others. 


Steven Holl’s Architectural Archive in Metropolis

 


Steven Holl’s Architectural Archive Preserves His Firm’s Designs and the Landscape, Metropolis, Jun. 22, 2022. 


Steven Holl can often be found reading poetry and painting watercolors in a tiny cabin overlooking lotus flowers on the edge of a lake in Rhinebeck, New York. The cabin sits on a 28-acre reserve that Holl purchased in 2014 that now hosts Holl’s full-time office, and ‘T’ Space, a nonprofit arts organization offering creative exhibitions, environmental installations, and architectural residencies. Wrapping around several large trees and linking through a passageway to another existing 1959 cabin, the Steven Myron Holl Foundation’s Architectural Archive and Research Library, built in 2019, is the latest building to be carefully situated in the lush landscape.

Holl covered the exterior surface of the 2,700-square-foot archive in an aluminum cladding with narrow corrugated bands that reflect light and diffuse shadows as the structure weaves through the landscape. It is heated and cooled by a 500-foot-deep geothermal well, which produces radiant underfloor heating while consuming almost zero energy. A green roof was installed in May. Local zoning allows Holl to extend the lodge up to 8,000 square feet, so the archive is anticipated to branch farther out as its collection grows. 




Adams Administration Infrastructure Priorities for Architect's Newspaper


The Adams administration promises it will make improvements in New York’s built environment—only it isn’t ready to talk about any of it, Architect's Newspaper, Jun. 2, 2022.


Judging by the halting responses of various press offices within the newly formed mayoral administration of Eric Adams to a basic question about its infrastructure priorities, I fully expect that in a matter of weeks New York City will collapse into a pile of fiery debris: Its bridges will fail; its subways will be permanently inundated by stormwater; and its residents, having taken to homemade rafts, will begin scavenging for food, water, and shelter. More patient, less alarmist observers suggest the mayor’s staff simply don’t know how to answer the question yet.

That said, clues to the intentions of the Adams administration for better governance can be found in a couple of places, including a plan for economic recovery released by the mayor’s office in March, a two-pager shared by the Department of Transportation (DOT), and a trickle of information from other sources.

Suggestions offered by former mayoral staffers, scholars, and expert practitioners could also help guide infrastructure policy toward a more ecological, equitable, and beautiful city (if it’s still standing). We gather from Thaddeus Pawlowski, who worked as an emergency planner for the city in Bill de Blasio’s administration, that the former Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency is being renamed the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice to combine several offices under a single umbrella. Crucially, the office will also be placed under the oversight of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which has substantial capital budgets.

The appointment of top-level officials hailed as smart and competent, such as Rohit T. Aggarwala as DEP commissioner, has also created a sense of optimism among outside observers like Pawlowski. (Initial missteps by the Adams administration, including the hiring of Bernard Adams as director of mayoral security, and the bulking up of police presence on public transit, were deflationary, to say the least.) However, none of these officials were made available to speak to AN after dozens of queries, nor were any current agency staff members, though three deputy mayors and an acting Department of Buildings commissioner spoke at a breakfast sponsored by the New York Building Congress in early April.

 

Boathouse by Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects for Dwell



A Streamlined Boathouse Perches Above the Water in the San Juan Islands, Dwell, May 27, 2022.


"One of the main goals was to recreate the shore’s edge, so that it’s as natural as possible," says Wickline. "We reduced the amount of in-water structure by 98 or 99 percent by creating these really thin columns. We touch that shoreline as minimally as possible to allow for the natural ecosystem to come back to what it once was." 

Now they can open up the windows and connect with the animals inhabiting the terrain. They share the waterfront with salmon, herring, river otters, crabs, eels, dolphins, and whales—as well as foxes, deer, raccoons, and all kinds of birds (including at least one bald eagle).

Brownstone Minimalism by David Cunningham for Dwell

A Design-Savvy Couple Turn a Worn-Down Brownstone Into a Minimalist Home, Dwell, Apr. 18. 2022.



Brooklyn-based architect David Cunningham had helped them inspect the property. When they sent him the detailed brief to turn it into a triplex with a garden-level rental, the extensive thought put into the document impressed him. "It’s pretty unusual for a client to do that," he says. "We’ve never seen it before. A lot of people make lists of things, but they had an overall vision or concept of how everything would hold together."

The brief called for a warm family home that preserved historic details while introducing a more modern aesthetic—and this aim defined the main tension in the building’s transformation. Initially, the couple emphasized the wish to preserve historic details, their appreciation for craft, and a desire for a minimalist but approachable aesthetic. They also mentioned "refraining from anything that is too precious."

As the design progressed, though, much of the Neo-Grec shouldered arch door-and-window trim fell away—only original and well-preserved elements in some rooms were saved—in favor of greater openness on the inside, and the need to add insulation to the front and rear facades.

Future 100 Student Design Portfolios for Metropolis

Future100: These Students Channel Personal Narrative into Supportive Housing, Metropolis, Apr. 8, 2022. 


Among this year’s Future100 students, some express a certain interiority of personal experience through residential architectural forms. Ethical concerns pervade their portfolios. These projects are not technocratic solutions to general problems of housing and programs for institutional clients; rather, they are extensions of an inward search for meaning and a turn toward the particulars of things that matter on a social and existential level. 

For example, when Syracuse University undergrad architecture student Kristabel Chung designs migrant domestic worker accommodations, reflecting on discriminatory labor laws in her mother’s native Hong Kong, her research process involves in-person interviews and quantitative surveys asking workers to evaluate and draw their own spaces. One of her projects performs a forensic study of the 23 holes, tears, and stains on a hoodie her mother wore while doing domestic chores, attempting to replicate the force required to create them, and dissecting the marks through diagrammatic representations. 

Subversive engagement with the digital as it interacts with human environments is a particularly salient theme throughout the portfolio of University of Massachusetts Amherst MArch student Cami Quinteros. They explore fluid dynamics, mass burial sites in Chile, codesign with computers, and migration patterns in Chiapas, Mexico, through computational line drawings that challenge the political neutrality often attributed to numerical processes. 

North Fork House by MESH Architectures for Dwell

 A Creative Couple’s Long Island Beach House “Bubbles” With Life, Dwell, Apr. 7, 2022. 


Liftin convinced them to design a rigorously energy-efficient passive house. A geothermal well supplies energy for heating and cooling using a ground-source heat pump, offset in upfront costs by 50 percent in federal and state tax credits. Triple-glazed windows, thick spray-foam insulation, and airtight seals provide the highest level of energy conservation, and an energy recovery ventilator circulates air. A contractor who built one of the first passive houses in the area brought local knowledge to the project.

A few lively design details nearly upstage the spectacular views of the ocean. Just beyond the entrance, brightly patterned hexagonal tiles overflow from the open kitchen into the living room, blending softly into blond pine floors. A tall, west-facing window directs afternoon sunlight into the Scandinavian-style space, making the bold patterns stand out in contrast to the shoreline in the distance.

"Surfaces have an incredible effect on our psyche, and we’re very affected by those that we come into contact with," Liftin says. "They have the ability to emotionally affect us. This is about a sense of life that bubbles through the building."