Eagle + West: OMA's New Zigzagging Towers in Brooklyn, Abitare, Jan. 2023.
On the Cosmological Implications of Early Galaxies for Architecture, Domus, Jan. 2023.
Renderings of the universe’s early galaxies produced by the James Webb Space Telescope communicate an uncanny perspective on time and space that should be as eventful in the history of humanity as images of the earth seen from space generations ago. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant took Newtonian physics as an inspiration for thinking systematically about the nature of consciousness, examining its underlying rational principles, which became a founding inspiration for the European Enlightenment. The disruptiveness of the theory of heliocentrism and extraplanetary worlds to the prevailing social and political order led to the persecution of people like Galileo and Giordano Bruno as heretics during the Italian Renaissance, imprisoned, the latter tortured and burned at the stake.
The method of observation, theorization, prediction, and testing they employed would usher in a revolutionary modern epoch of science, technology, political organization, and social life. We should regard the Webb images with a similar impetus: to take in as a civilization, spiritually and cognitively, the unfathomable dimensions of space-time grasped by a physics that can render as full color images light reaching us in the present from 13.5 billion years ago, 350 million years after the Big Bang. It should influence how we design and build.
Eco-cosmological design may re-center humanity on planet earth as a primal experience of the environment and a spiritual gift of being in the universe. Reminiscent of ancient pyramids, mosques, temples, pilgrimage sites, and stepwells, architecture can return us to the concept of the godhead as an agent of renewal of the universe each day, conscious of the gracious return of sunlight as a life-giving force, where we engage in seasonal celebrations common to every culture and revere the plants and animals we live among, which feed us and spare us from destruction.
As the population of humanity surpasses eight million, we can see signs of the terror a poorly organized infrastructure may bring: mass starvations in drought stricken territories, millions of refugees fleeing inhospitable habitats, drowning at sea and expiring in the desert, mass shootings, which are like preparations for a dimming of moral feeling, people packed in alleyways and concert halls suffocated by a sudden fear of being trapped, islands erased by tropical storms, arctic villages disappeared in the melting permafrost, entire ecological systems collapsing. In the vast movement of particle, accelerated indefinitely by industrial production, we need to pay attention to bodies of all kinds.
Full text in January 2023 Domus magazine
Montreal’s Darlington Corridor Grows, Gradually, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Dec. 2022.
OPEN Architecture’s Li Hu speaks about the office’s recent cultural projects in China, Architect's Newspaper, Dec. 21, 2022.
A Pair of Shipping Container Homes Trace the Edges of a Nature Preserve in India, Dwell, Oct. 31, 2022.
As the couple lived on the land, they got to know their neighbors—shepherds, gardeners, and dairy farmers with whom they shared the jungle village. "For people who come from the city, the jungle is an unknown—it was really cool that we could spend the pandemic getting to know the place," Mary says.
Kumar paid Mary and Kundan a visit to familiarize himself with the place and develop a site plan. "We spent a lot of time planning the location of the containers, down to the last angle," Kumar says. "It was beautiful to stand on the site and see what you’re going to see when you wake up—all of the angles of the ridge behind you. That’s when the entire project took shape."
A Park in Progress: Marsha P. Johnson was a hero in the Black trans community. Will the park designed in her honor earn the same admiration? Landscape Architecture Magazine, Oct. 28, 2022.
David Geffen Hall Fixes Decades of Architectural Missteps, Metropolis, Oct. 11, 2022.
The Rec Center Reimagined: How Cities are Designing for Wellness, Metropolis, Oct. 10, 2022.
The decision for cities to invest in new facilities that nurture public health and well-being should be intuitive: The benefits of physical activity for educational outcomes and the prevention of illness have been well established by the scientific community for more than a century. But local spending on such resources has been steadily falling, while private fitness has become a $30 billion industry in the United States, essentially filling this void. Luxury fitness clubs like Equinox and pricey training classes like SoulCycle have exploded, while corporate offices have begun to push fitness amenities and the rhetoric of well-being to attract workers back to the office.
But some public facilities are smartly incorporating attributes of the wellness world. By paying close attention to the desires of their neighborhoods and leveraging municipal funding, Baltimore’s Cahill Fitness and Wellness Center and El Paso’s Eastside Regional Recreation Center—both begun before the pandemic made public health a primary concern—deliver something equally tied to the health benefits of fitness: a sense of community belonging.
This shift toward the language of wellness shouldn’t be such a surprise in a public recreational facility. Many rec centers originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when social reformers advocated for public bathhouses and playgrounds as ways of improving the hygiene and development of poor children and the population in general. Hundreds of parks and recreation departments established during that time continue to operate, along with school sports facilities. But the defunding of the public sector in the past half century has tended to leave these facilities feeling outdated and a little depressing.
DS+R Prior Performing Arts Center is designed as a public commons, Wallpaper, Oct. 5, 2022.
The interaction of concrete and steel, mirroring the brick and limestone of Holy Cross’ historic campus, plays with ideas of backstage and public presentation, merging expressiveness and function, one of the hallmarks of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro office. The designers analysed the college’s needs and the building’s anticipated uses and devised a site plan that inadvertently, they claim, happens to form a cross. ‘We love doing academic work,’ says Charles Renfro, the lead principal designer. ‘We know that they want a pedagogical tool that also demonstrates the pedagogy.’
Last year, Vincent D Rougeau became the school’s first non-ordained president. He says liberal arts education is a natural extension of the Jesuit order, which since its origins has been known for intellectual inquiry and embrace of the arts. ‘Since our earliest days, we’ve been focused on humanities, arts, and science, and we see all of those coming together as a path to wisdom,’ he says. ‘This centre is going to help us elevate all of those pieces in a stunning new space and communicate to the world all of the aspects of what makes a liberal arts education great.’
Lesley Lokko and the African Futures Institute, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, Sep. 2022.
BDG Redesigns a Detroit Power Plant for the World’s Largest Ad Agency, Metropolis, Aug. 15, 2022.
This Azure ADU Is an L.A. Teen’s Home (Slightly) Away From Home, Dwell, July 25, 2022.
David Thompson, a founding principal of Assembledge+, had recently participated in a Los Angeles Magazine project to imagine solutions for those who lack housing in the city. Their notion was for public agencies to subsidize building ADUs in backyards along alleyways, dovetailing with existing alley revitalization initiatives.
That concept, titled Rear Projections, became a jumping-off point for other types of ADUs, and it ultimately informed the design of the Vernetti’s Hancock Park project, which replaced a detached backyard garage and extended the rear of the old house to create a new main bedroom, with French doors that lead out to a new deck.
Brotherhood Sister Sol: In West Harlem, Urban Architectural Initiatives makes architecture for social change, Oculus, Summer 2022.
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.”