When the Park Comes to You: San Francisco’s Unique ‘Parklet’ Program

From crowdfunding to super-rich donors and other more scandalous methods, the means to fund new public spaces are proving to be diverse. But why the sudden rush for public space? Put simply, its rewards of public space appeal to a broad range of constituents: better quality of life for residents, increased real estate value, amplified tourism, and even the glory of architectural iconicity. Yet not all public space need be expensive or grand.

That’s just one of the reasons I like San Francisco’s ‘parklets’: these street-side hyper-miniature parks are temporary, keeping the city’s visual landscape diverse while giving young designers fresh opportunities for acclaim. They’re also surgical, with each location identified by the city as a prime parklet opportunity. Their specificity can also highlight the potential of design to intelligently meet local needs. Lastly, while some architects never study their project’s success (or failure) in the long term, the city monitors the impact of these installations over their lifetime. It’s a fascinating mix of characteristics; read to learn how they came about!

Link to the Article on Core77

Top Image: The Sunset Parklet designed by INTERSTICE Architects. Photo by Cesar Rubio via Contemporist.


Unlocking Skyscrapers’ Hidden Energy Through Art

Like a dormant volcano, every building holds a vast reservoir of untapped strength. But that energy isn’t explosive: it’s reactive, waiting to resist the thousands of tons of force that strong winds and earthquakes exert on structures.  That’s how an engineer described a recently-completed artwork that his firm, Arup, helped design with artist Janet Echelman. Titled As If It Were Already Here and located in a downtown Boston park, the 1 ton sculpture is composed of rope and twine hanging more than 300 feet in the air. The artwork hangs from several skyscrapers especially chosen for their strength: when the wind blows, and the sculpture catches it like a sail, the buildings push back with 100,000 pounds of force. Read on to learn more!

Link to the Article on Architectural Record

Top Image: Janet Echelman’s As If It Were Already Here, via Hi Fructose


How To Create A Secular Saint – And Her Shrine

Local Essex woman Julie Cope never lived or died, but sure enough, in a peaceful Essex field you can find a building that commemorates her life in every detail. Tapestries, tiles, statues, and other objects use various symbols and imagery to communicate the story of her life: her gradual rise up Britain’s socioeconomic ladder, her marriages and children, and her untimely demise at the hands (wheel?) of a food delivery motorbike. This shrine, which doubles as a vacation home, is part of a unique series of architectural experiments being commissioned in Britain by the organization Living Architecture. Read on learn about their undertaking, the house’s design, and how it was created through a close collaboration between artist Peter Grayson and architect Charles Holland.

Link to Architectural Record Article

Top Image: A House for Essex, Photo © Jack Hobhouse


Building Tall With… Recycled Paper?

I’m very excited to inaugurate a (hopefully) recurring column on Architizer – titled New Archetypes – that explores how architects experiment with small projects to produce very unique designs. This entry focuses on a 20 foot tall pavilion built from recycled paper pulp, the exact same material found in your Starbucks coffee tray and cardboard moving boxes. The ‘Pulp Pavilion,’ designed by L.A.-based Ball-Nogues Studio, shaded visitors to this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival.

Read on to learn more!

Link to the Architizer Article

Top Image: The Pulp Pavilion, Courtesy Ball-Nogues Studio via Architizer


Norman Foster’s Sublty-Designed Winery In Bourdeaux

Contemporary architecture can be a race to be iconic and Instragrammed, which isn’t inherently bad but certainly doesn’t make for the best guiding priority in every new building. That’s why I enjoyed covering this winery designed by Lord Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners: it’s elegant and simple, blending with the two hundred year old buildings around it. But that doesn’t stop the design from having modern features, such as intricately-detailed steel hidden under its roof.

Link to the Curbed Article

Top Image: Photograph by Nigel Young / Foster + Partners via ArchDaily


The ‘Artichair’ Is Literally ‘Green Design’

Sometimes a new material can revitalize a classic look. The Eames’ colorful fiberglass chairs used to be a staple of living rooms and classrooms alike. While that fiberglass material is durable, it’s not 100% biodegradable, unlike this new substance from Greek designer Spyros Kizis. Read on for details on how he turned wild artichoke fibers into a very “green” design.

Link to the Curbed Article

Top Image: The Artichair, Photo Courtesy Spyros Kizis.

Luca Zanier Corridors Power

Photographing The Corridors Of Power

Analyzing the architecture of power is tougher than it looks. It’s relatively easy to discern the symbolic meaning of governmental architecture – the tallest building houses the most prominent functions, Greco-Roman architecture suggests stability and timelessness, etc. However, those meanings are inflected and influenced by actual politics: a Greco-Roman government building can just as easily symbolize hypocrisy or oppression, depending on the actions of its inhabitants.

That’s what makes this collection of photography  by Luca Zanier so fascinating. Zanier has spent years photographing congresses, councils, parliaments – everywhere important decisions are made. He says the photos (now a forthcoming book, titled Corridors of Power) aim to show the public those unseen spaces that affect their lives. While grand, these rooms would be almost anonymous and inconsequential if not for a few name placards and symbols. Once you move past their stately magnificence, these empty spaces suggest that architecture is a vessel of power – not its embodiment. Read on to learn more about Zanier’s photography and crowdfunding campaign!

Link to the Curbed Article

Top Image: UN Security Council I, New York 2008, courtesy Luca Zanier.