Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AIA Bridge Program Gets a Pony for the Holidays

I had mentioned the new AIA Bridge program in an earlier post and now that the program is coming to the end of its term I can write a bit about the outcome. Please look for that in future posts.

Brett Taylor, top photo, lower left, sees no evil. James Holland, bottom photo, foreground, smells no evil.

A few weeks ago we were given the opportunity to present our proposals to the AIA Chicago Chapter Board. While the presentation was well received, at some point during the meeting someone suggested the Board might sponsor the Bridge program, many of whom are unemployed emerging professionals, to the AIA Holiday Party. So a few days later word came down that they had ponied up the dough and they deserve our sincerest thanks.

But this is related to another important issue. One of the things that was brought up at the meeting was a summary from the Large Firms Round Table. Apparently they were concerned about loosing emerging architects to the recession as has been the case in years past. Now, whether they are, in fact, concerned about loosing young architects or whether that was just said because the room was full of Bridge program members, many of whom are emerging architects and newly unemployed, remains to be seen.

But one of the ways unemployed emerging architects have remained engaged with the profession has been through the AIA. I'd like to suggest that the vast majority of young, laid-off architects come from big firms that sponsored their membership to the AIA. Well, many of those memberships are coming to term and many of those emerging professionals will not be renewing them.

I've heard a number of AIA administrators point out the membership in Chicago is in better shape than the national numbers. Those numbers may soon fall off a cliff as emerging professionals let their memberships lapse because they are still unemployed. On top of that, those EP's will no longer have access to many of the resources that AIA provides. The Chicago Chapter has certainly been supportive of me, along with the Bridge program and the seminars I attend for Learning Units, they have a link to this blog on their home page.

So, if I take what I have heard over the last few weeks regarding emerging professionals, AIA memberships, large firms, etc., and plug them into a formula I come up with a solution. I'm not suggesting large firms provide memberships to former employees for nothing. But I have a number of ideas in which the EP's can be put to work towards social issues involving communities or segments of society who lack access to professional services. A large firm could volunteer a team leader and a few of their workstations that have been dormant for about a year now. In return, EP's would have access to professionals, equipment, colleagues, professional memberships, and most importantly they would have the ability to work toward completing their IDP.

The sponsor firms, in turn, would be able to maintain a connection to these employees during this recession and build upon their skill set so they are prepared for the economy when it recovers. At the same time they would be training their existing employees to be future team leaders.

As I said, I have a couple of ideas for projects for which this system could be put to use. Please look for those in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Food Desert Caravan Charette This Saturday

Project Brief from Architecture for Humanity, Chicago Chapter:

Food Desert Caravan 

Project Partner
Food Desert Action

A July 2006 study sheds light on a major facet of community disinvestment in Chicago’s African-Americancommunities: the lack of grocery stores. The study examines the phenomenon of “food deserts,” described as “communities with little or no access to grocery stores and quality, nutritious food choices.”

Roughly one in six Chicago residents lives in a food desert. The report demonstrated statistically significant relationships between food access and diet-related disease, including diabetes and obesity, and premature death.

A significant part of the cost and risk in grocery retail lies in real estate. This involves tremendous cost, and is an irreversible decision once made. Minimizing the real estate aspect of the business could reduce start-up costs and lower risk for a new enterprise.

Project Description and Goals
The Food Desert Caravan is a proposal for a mobile store, built in a retrofitted city transit bus, to restore urban food access. The Caravan will focus on providing fresh produce.

Parameters and Design Considerations
• Chicago Transit Authority accordion-like bus
• Four season operation
• Green, sustainable and energy efficient technologies (i.e., bio-diesel fuel, solar-powered sound system, reused materials, etc.)
• Appropriate shelving, refrigeration and storage for produce
• Accessible/universal design
• Storage area for packaged pre-ordered produced boxes/bags
• Space for income generating signage/advertisements
• Easy loading and unloading produce
• Space for point of purchase area
• Area for educational and promotional materials
• Speedy Construction (easily replicated)

Conceptual Design Charette, 8am-12pm, Saturday December 5, 2009
Location: MacArthur Foundation, 140 S. Dearborn, Suite 1700

Geoff Malia

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Rose Fellowship Makes its Way to Chicago

I was invited to attend a reception by The Enterprise Rose Fellowship in Community Architecture at the Ransom R. Cable Mansion last month to welcome Chicago's new Rose Fellow, Daniel Splaingard, as well as recognizing the inaugural Fellowship in Chicago.

Katie Swenson, Senior Director of the Enterprise Rose Fellowship and co-author of Growing Urban Habitats, Seeking a New Housing Development Model was nice enough to make herself available for an interview. Here is a summary of our coversation

Steven Pantazis: When the Fellowship was first formed, did they imagine it being as far reaching as it is today? Is it as far as they wanted it to be?

Katie Swenson: I think the original concept of the Fellowship is unchanged and that's something we're very proud of. We wanted to give young architects and designers a full experience in community development, not just an experience in one component of architecture, drafting for example, as they normally would coming out of school. So when we place them in a Community Development Corporation, they are exposed to design, construction, maintenance of the buildings upon completion, providing mortgaging and credit counseling to potential residents. In this way they walk away from the program with a much broader experience. We felt it would be useful for emerging architects to have experience from the developers' perspective.

One thing Jonathan Rose mentioned recently that was unintended as a huge benefit to the program is the network amongst the fellows that has developed and is maintained over the years. As far as the program being where we thought it would, you know, the original funding for the Fellowship was thought of as seed money so, yes, we are very happy with how far it has come. We have programs all over the U.S. and this year we are planning a Fellowship in Puerto Rico. We're also working with six tribal groups in the southwest to establish sustainability programs. This program spawned from what was originally a one-off resulting from one of our Fellowships.

We have a new program with the National Endowment for the Arts called the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute which pairs a team of resource practitioners with Development Directors for a few days in an exchange of knowledge similar to the Mayors' Institute.

SP: You mentioned Fellows being exposed to multiple disciplines, are Fellows expected to be generalists upon completion of their term?

KS: Not necessarily. The goal is to provide the Fellows with the tools they will need to make educated decisions, and very specifically, where they want their careers to go. Some went on to work for firms that work with community developers. Fellows are engaged with community development corporations which are mostly non-profits and some have stayed in that field. In fact, 85% of CDC's go on to hire the Fellow after the term which I think is a testament to the success of the program. CDC's don't realize the value of having an architect on staff until they have a first hand experience with it.

SP: So it's a learning experience for both parties.

KS: Exactly. And the focus of Enterprise has always been to support CDC's. Architects understand good design but you don't always have a developer that appreciates the benefits of good design.

Daniel with Joy Aruguete, Executive Director, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation. Photo by Harry Connolly.

SP: As a Rose Fellow Alumnus, what impact has the Fellowship had on your life and career?

KS: Well, first of all, I think it's impossible to separate a career between a personal and professional identity. So in that regard, the Fellowship allowed me to unite my personal mission and professional mission. It gives you the ability to say you want to use your work and career to make a difference by giving you the opportunity to develop skills, vision and confidence. The three years allows you to have the experience and make it into a career path so that, after the Fellowship, you can be more specific about what you want to do.

SP: The Fellowship is nearly 10 years old, why is Chicago just getting the opportunity now?

KS: Chicago had not been on the Fellowship's radar before, but it is the heart of American architecture and has such a robust community development world. But there's always room for more. That's why Enterprise has a local office in Chicago. And, of course, Monica [Chadha] was instrumental in bringing the Fellowship to Chicago.

SP: What have some of your favorite projects been? Who has set the bar for Chicago?
KS: San Francisco has been an important model for us. We started there with one Fellow in the first class and because of him another CDC came forward. From there another foundation stepped forward. So it grew upon itself rather organically. And San Francisco is an incredible leader in design excellence in affordable housing.

L.A. and Portland are really excellent examples.

We found CDC's often don't look outside their own cities. Looking nationally works to encourage an exchange of ideas so we've been encouraging CDC's to look to what is being done in other cities.

SP: How can other cities get involved?

KS: It works in different ways. Sometimes we identify a city or sometimes a CDC comes to us. For example, in Puerto Rico we started by working with a CDC based out of New York. On the other hand, in Cleveland, we new we wanted a Fellow deeply engaged in the foreclosure crisis there, so we started by identifying the city and the problem and potential CDC's we could work with.

We rely on government, local and national support and actively fundraise at the local level for each fellowship. So it's really important, for the fellowship to work, to have a commitment from the community as well as from Enterprise.

SP: This is one of the worst years the architecture profession has ever seen. How many Applicants did you get?

KS: Lots. We received more applications for the CHicago Fellowship, many more, than we had ever received in any other year. It felt almost brutal the amount of incredibly qualified people that applied. But, we decided, from the very beginning, that we wouldn't question their motives on how they got interested in working in public housing. We just looked at every applicant as we normally would and tried to select the best candidate

SP: Can you describe the selection process? What made Dan stand out?

KS: The way it normally works is a local committee narrows down the selection of applicants before they are placed in front of the national committee. They then go over the list with the host CDC. This year was different in that they got down to four and couldn't get any further. We just had so many applicants and so many of them were extremely qualified. They interviewed the four finalists in Chicago and it was the CDC who made the final decision.

Dan understood the broad range of a project from the big idea at the beginning to the final minute details, maintenance on the final building, for example, at the end. He was able to connect the entire process from the design to the living experience of the residents to the maintenance of the properties. One of the things he said was, from his experience at the [Sam Mockbee's] Rural Studio [at Auburn], he called himself both a dreamer and a janitor. So Bickerdike believed he had qualities that would make him both a team player and a leader.

Chicago-based Rose Fellow Daniel Splaingard with Andrea Traudt of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, Daniel’s host organization. Photo by Mitchell Canoff

SP: How did you select Bickerdike?

KS: The CDC selection is a more closed-door process but I can tell you that Bickerdike embodies so much of what we look for in a CDC; a combination of deep, long term real estate development and neighborhood focus. Plus their executive director is on our national board so she had worked with Enterprise before. Also, this was the second time they applied. They applied initially seven or eight years ago so this told us they were familiar with the program and really interested in participating.

SP: Have you received any feedback from either the Fellow or the host on how things have progressed thus far?

KS: Yes, Dan is deep "in it" which is the best sign. I know that they both have a sense of the long-term commitment so from Bickerdike's perspective they have identified what he needs to learn early so he can be more effective later. But Dan is being more proactive as well. He has identified areas, such as Revit, that he needs to improvement on and is working on those areas. He also decided on his own accord to take the LEED right away and not wait.

SP: When will there be another Rose Fellowship to apply for in Chicago?

KS: I don't know. I can’t answer that at this point.

SP: Will there be another Urban Habitats Competition?

KS: I don't think so. The competition was more theory and I'm more interested in applying that theory to practice. The competition was great; trailer parks are fertile ground for either good or bad design. They're not like normal neighborhoods because the people living there have no rights to the land so the developer can do whatever he wants.

Some of the experiences coming out of the fellowships is theory and research in a way, though. We're learning how we could better hone our skills to make the areas of design and practical construction not so divergent and how we can pass on that knowledge.

SP: Does that mean another book could be on the way?

KS: I certainly hope so. Right now we're more concerned with matching Fellows with CDC's.

SP: You mentioned, at the reception, the desire for Enterprise Community Partners to work with emerging architects. How does an emerging architect go about getting noticed by Enterprise?

KS: The CDC's are finding that in order to develop high quality, green affordable housing, they have to be more savvy about design. Our goal is to have all CDC's have someone like a Fellow on their staff. I would advise emerging architects to expand their horizons a little bit to understand policy regulations, financing, etc. You know, I think I mentioned Shaun Donovan at the reception and he's a prime example that if you broaden your experience to understand the other aspects that go into public housing, then you're perhaps better prepared to make a difference in the areas you want.

SP: Enterprise has a presence in cities all over the country, are they actively seeking to do more work in Chicago?

KS: Absolutely. We have a local office there with multifamily mortgage and asset management. We've been working on the green retrofit funding with Chicago. We also look for a bit of guidance from local agencies, the CHA for example.

SP: So, what I'm getting from you is, if we wanted to work with Enterprise your advice to any CDC's in Chicago would be to be a bit more proactive and reach out to Enterprise rather than to wait for Enterprise to reach out to them?

KS: Absolutely, it couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

7 Days Until Pecha Kucha Night Chicago

The 12th installment of Pecha Kucha Night Chicago is in one week on Tuesday, December 1st at Martyrs. I'm not a presenter this time, but it will still be good. I promise. Tickets are $10 at the door or online.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A+DEN Conference: The Objectivity of Good Design

One of the themes that permeated the conference was the challenge of establishing a culture of understanding of good design.

One major roadblock, getting everyone to agree on what good design is. During Peter Murray's presentation, he mentioned Prince Charles' affinity for Georgian architecture and the now famous, or infamous, sacking of Richard Rogers' modern design for the Chelsea Barracks for a Georgian alternative. Mr. Murray is the Chairman of New London Architecture and the Director of the London Festival of Architecture.

Peter Murray on the role of political will in architecture.

I don't blame the Prince of Wales for preferring the Georgian style, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But it's just that sort of political intervention that has been used in cities and neighborhoods to confine them to a certain look. I've heard stories of architects avoiding public housing projects because they mandate things like devoting a minimum percentage of exterior wall to brick. I understand the intent of a requirement like that to protect the end product by disallowing inferior materials. But you also risk stifling the design freedom of the architect.

Richard Rogers' scheme for the Chelsea Barracks. Image courtesy Telegraph Media Group.


Prince Charles' alternative scheme for the Chelsea Barracks. Image courtesy Telegraph Media Group.

Also, while this may work at a small scale, when you get to the scale of an entire city you risk the sort of mundane homogenous neighborhoods one may find in the row housing of Las Vegas or Mexico. Perhaps it would be better to grade architecture, not by style, but by overall aesthetics, quality of materials, the effectiveness of the building to perform the functions for which it is intended, its integration with the urban fabric, its contribution to the social fabric, etc.

One way the City of New York has worked to promote original designs and emerging architects is by setting aside RFP's for smaller projects for smaller or younger firms. As the firms complete these smaller projects they will be considered for larger ones. This has resulted in a very diverse range of designs from emerging architects and has generally been considered a success. I was somewhat familiar with the program but really admire it now thanks to a presentation at the conference by Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director, Architectural League of New York.

Panelists from left: Story Bellows, Director, Mayors' Institute on City Design; Maurice Cox, Director of Design, National Endowment for the Arts; Victoria Thornton, Founding Director, Open House London; Lynn Osmond, President & CEO, Chicago Architecture Foundation. Photo by Anne Evans.

Maurice Cox, Director of Design, National Endowment for the Arts, even broached the subject at a panel discussion. He referenced a lecture by Shaun Donovan, Secretary U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, at Harvard's GSD. In it, Mr. Donovan never used the word design. Instead, his lecture was peppered throughout with the word space-making. I assume this is an effort to avoid alienating a segment of society who sees architecture and design as, rightfully so, elitist.

One of the things I walked away with from the conference is a feeling of admiration from a number of attendees. Few cities have a culture with such an understanding of architecture and design as Chicago. This gives us a bit of a head start over other cities that have to start from scratch, so to speak.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How was Rebuilding Together?

I talked to Andrea from Rebuilding Together last week and she let me know there were a number of you there because you had read about it on my blog. One of the reasons I chose a blog as a web resource for volunteer opportunities was because of the ability to provide candid reviews about the organizations with which I volunteer. One way to extend that resource is by having your comments.

Did you go? How was it? would you do it again? Did you have a donut? A bagel? Were the volunteers friendly? The home owners? Who else are you volunteering with?

Speaking of which, I'll be out with the RT people this Saturday but CAF is looking for volunteers at the same time. Krisann needs people to lead high school students through a sketching session from 9:30-3:00 as part of her Saturdays in the Studio program. If you want to get involved or you're even a little curious there's a planning meeting this Wednesday at 12:30 at CAF, Suite 430.

Please comment.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Carol Coletta at the A+DEN Conference

It's not what your cities can do for you, it's what you can do for your cities. More specifically, what architecture and design can do for cities in attracting and retaining talent. So, I guess it is what your cities can do for you.

Carol Coletta. Photo by Anne Evans.

This is the second keynote I've heard at an architecture convention in as many months that addresses the importance of knowledge. This time Carol Coletta, President and CEO, CEOs for Cities, referred to it more as talent. Most mayors and city leaders recognize the current race in attracting and retaining talent and so she suggests architects use this to convince policy makers of the importance of good design in the built environment.

In my experience in this regard, which admittedly stems mostly from hearing about others' experience in this regard, there seems to be a universal understanding in economic influences to cities yet there continues to be a disconnect in understanding the role good architecture can play as an influence. Chicago is one of the few lucky exceptions and in hearing what others in attendance from around the nation had to say they were a bit envious.

Ms. Coletta spent significant time addressing the most mobile segment of society 25-34 year olds. The number one thing they look for in a place to live is a city that is clean and attractive. This criteria is followed closely by their ability to live the way they want, green city initiatives, safety, and they want the housing they want to be affordable. That is, they don't want affordable housing, that put out and subsidized by the government. They want whatever housing they want to be affordable, which touches on the stigma that exists with the term "affordable housing". And rightfully so, so much of it is poorly designed. Although there are some gems out there.

Ms. Coletta also mentioned the 2030 plan and the tendency for politicians to verbally commit to something that they know will fall outside their term limits, leaving no incentive for them to follow through. While many mayors have signed on to the 2030 plan, there is no plan of action for implementation. Although I don't think she knows about the Carbon Reduction Plan being proposed to the city by Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill Architects. It was presented at the CTBUH Conference to much acclaim. The interesting thing was, once you start to investigate what needs to be done to reduce emissions by 50% you realize the extreme measures that need to be taken.

To be continued...

Monday, November 9, 2009

ACADIA 09: reForm()

Every year the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) assembles a group of the best and brightest academics and practitioners in the field of architecture with the intent of advancing the knowledge revolving around the use of computation in the field of architecture. ACADIA was formed in the early 1980's for the purpose of facilitating communication and critical thinking regarding the use of computers in architecture, planning and building science.Their annual conference changes venue every year and this year comes to Chicago and, more specifically, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

An interesting coincidence, as SAIC President Wellington Reiter points out, that as Chicago celebrates the 100th year of the Burnham Plan it hosts a conference of innovators and big-thinkers that Burnham himself would attend were he alive today. The conference, titled "reForm()," explores how architects, engineers, artists and designers are using new HARDWARE, SOFTWARE and MIDDLEWARE technologies to transform the ways in which buildings and spaces perform, act and operate. Mr. Reiter, against the backdrop of a premier art and design school, acknowledged and embraced the exceptionally high level of craft on display in the work presented at the conference, while at the same time issuing a caution to not let the intricacy and complexity enabled by digital tools distract from the issues of the day.

I’m going to attempt to give an objective recap of each of the conference highlights, followed by an interpretation of how the technology presented addresses issues at hand for practicing architects in a world concerned with climate change, renewable energy sources, sustainability and high-performance building systems.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rebuilding Together - The Final Push

You may recall previous posts in regards to an organization called Rebuilding Together. I had intended to write a reflection on my experiences with the not-for-profit and the people they help. Now that the interviews are winding down, and they need more volunteers for the final push, I figured this was as good a time as any.

I won't get into the semantics of the organization themselves, they were well organized and knew what they were doing, this being their 10th year. I should mention the donuts, bagels ad coffee. As I said, well organized.

The things that really stood out for me was that there are so many people in need in such a small area, the Austin neighborhood, and that there were such extremes of classes involved, in some cases they lived just down the street from each other.

For example, one house had three men living in it, the grandmother, her daughter and four or five grandchildren running around piles of refuse. The walls had massive holes in them due to a complete overhaul of the plumbing in the place. It was tough to see and tougher to walk away from. I don't think I'm experienced enough in these situations to presume to know where to begin to help, but I remember thinking that the children could use a good mentor.

Just down the street, however, an older woman, possibly in her forties, answered the door and invited us into her fine, middle-class home. In many ways it was nicer than my condo and even the basement was finished. While it was sad to see the extremes, the potential positive outcome here was the exposure the children in the previous home would have to a middle-class home or family. That's something that was taken away from poor neighborhoods in the last 50 years in this country but is also something we have come to recognize and attempt to rectify with our new housing projects, aptly named mixed-income communities.

I've heard other people say Austin is the new North Lawndale. Several years ago the architecture, design, development and real estate communities descended upon North Lawndale to the point where, some say, it was over saturated with outreach. The results are clear, and master plans and proposals continue along with new or rehabbed buildings that are setting a new standard, not only for the neighborhood but for the nation, such as the Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center by Doug Farr's office.

Austin is shaping up to be in a similar situation. Many organizations are focusing their efforts on the neighborhood. One of the things that has kept it on the down-and-out is its proximity to Oak Park and its use as a westward drug corridor into Chicago.

Rebuilding Together is a well-run organization and I never felt unsafe. You may be familiar with their Rebuilding Together day which normally falls in April. If you're unfamiliar with the interview process that is required of applicant homeowners it's a great program with a lot of need. They're coming down to the end of the season and would like to be finished with Austin by the end of November (they've started tackling Berwyn too). But whether or not they finish depends heavily on you. Interviews are done in pairs, one person interviews the homeowner while the other scopes the house to determine how much help they need. As an architect, I was a scoper and they made it very easy for me by providing a checklist.

There's a thriving community here, some people just need a little push in the right direction. Whether you want to help out, meet new people or build up a resume in this economic downturn Rebuilding Together could use you and there's certainly a lot of need in Austin. I know how many of you are out of work so if you're tired of sitting around this is a worthy cause.

The next interview days are as follows:
November 14th
November 21st
December 5th
December 12th

Please contact:
Andrea Fritsch
Program Manager
Rebuilding Together * Metro Chicago
PO Box 641250, Chicago, IL 60664
P: (312)201-1188
F: (312)977-3805

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Palleroni Has Landed

And Delivered.

Last Tuesday night at the Graham Foundation, Sergio Palleroni lectured on his life's work with his program called the BaSiC Initiative. I knew a little bit about what he does from seeing it on the PBS series Design e2. None-the-less, he went into considerable detail on a number of projects and I was impressed by the depth, scope, and global reach of his work.

It all started nearly 3 decades ago when he decided to put his formal education to use by helping his people. After a brief stint building housing for the UN and World Bank, he struck out on his own.

Mr. Palleroni gave us a good impression of the poverty throughout the world and I gained an appreciation for the methods he was using to help them. He wasn't giving them fish, as most government entities do to house the poor, he was teaching them to fish. Which is probably the best way to reach out the vast number of people and communities that need help. During his lecture he casually mentioned a community he worked in of 1 million squatters. That resonated with me for a while and is still something I think about. A community of 1 million squatters. I'm so far removed from a situation like that I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like.

Teaching them how to build housing, schools, and libraries gives them a sense of empowerment and ownership over the land which in turn strengthens the community. Some even banded together to get loans and matching grants.

At some point during his presentation there was so much work I found it hard to believe that what he was showing was all his even with him presenting it. In speaking with him afterward I came to find out he had a family on top of it all. I asked him how he was able to complete projects on 5 continents (What, no Antarctica?) at the same time and raise a family.

By now, he is able to appoint students and research assistants he has known for a few years to lead projects. After a number of years of doing this those project managers and former students have gone on to start their own initiatives.

On balancing family life with professional, he humbly credited his wife for being understanding but admitted having her as a partner in the firm has helped. He used to bring his kids with him to locations around the world. But now that they're older they have to stay home to attend school.

Upon his departure I'm left with more questions: Is his Portland school initiative expandable to Chicago? What other programs like this can we create here in Chicago to address the specific needs of our poor communities? How can we address the social breakdown that seems to be a unique trait to poor communities in America and can architects design housing to facilitate the improvement of those social structures?

I want to thank Mr. Palleroni, who took time out of his busy schedule while in Chicago to speak with us. He mentioned the importance of sharing and distributing knowledge and in continuing that spirit he shared his slides with me so that I might composite his lecture with the audio recording I had thanks to the Graham Foundation. Accordingly, this lecture and workshop series couldn't have happened without Roberta Feldman of the City Design Center and the selfless contributions of the rag-tag group that makes up the partnership that is Converge:Exchange. Whether you missed it or have to see it again, please enjoy Sergio Palleroni: Affecting Lasting Change Through Design Build Activism.

Part 2
Part 3

Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Monday, October 26, 2009

Speed Mentoring at Archeworks

This Tuesday night at 6pm. The Chicago Women in Architecture and the Archeworks Alumni Association are hosting the event. Answer the following questions and email them to speedmentoring@archeworks.org

1.   List your name and current contact information:

2.   Are you registering as a Mentor or Mentee?

3.   What are your reasons for attending?
4.   Who is your current employer or organization?

5.   What is your educational background?

6.   List any other organizations you are active in or affiliations you have that you think would be helpful for this event:

Speed Mentoring
6:00 - 8:00
October 27th
@ Archeworks
625 N. Kingsbury

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Pecha Kucha Beta Site Launches

The beta version of the global Pecha Kucha site has been in the works for a while and guess who has the honor of being the only non-tokyo presentation posted on the site; moi. I had nothing to do with their naming of the presentation. I probably would have called it volunteering in chicago architecture or something. But the word they chose did get the most laughs. Jokes that you don't have to think about tend to have that effect.

This site has officially experienced the PK Bump and Peter Exley deserves my sincerest thanks for his support.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

UNSudio and Parametric Modeling

Last night I attended the opening keynote for ACADIA 09 by UNStudio's head of design integration, Christian Veddeler. I write this with the assumption that you're familiar with both UNStudio's work and parametric modeling software.

While I am familiar with and admire their work, I saw Ben Van Berkel speak about the pavilion this past summer, I was intrigued to learn more about their design flow. Mr. Veddeler used the Mercedes Benz Museum as a case study.

Image courtesy UNStudio.

The Museum is based on a trefoil knot:

From there the knot was pulled and repeated vertically to create a double helix circulation strategy. Parametric modeling software was essential in keeping the project viable by keeping costs manageable while maintaining a fluid design process.

By applying parameters to elements of the project it allows them to focus on design without having to worry about the means and method of construction as much. For example, a parameter for repeating concrete formwork was applied to the curves and other elements (the entire structure is reinforced concrete). Once that was established they were free to manipulate the design to accommodate the pragmatic constraints that we architects are always faced with; program, square footage requirements, gravity, etc. In this way they weren't waiting until the end to address such things as making certain elements fit into a module so the project budget doesn't spiral out of control.

And don't most architects work in this way? We design a building with little regard to how it's going to get built only to have to go back to the drawing board once the construction bids come back over budget. In my opinion, software tools like parametric modeling are essential for architects wishing to push the envelop of design and construction. It certainly has been for UNStudios.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two Significant Conferences this Week

This was me:


You get the idea. Anyways, I thought I was stuck until a colleague of mine, David LeFevre, let me know he would be at the ACADIA conference and offered to be a guest contributor. Given the importance of this global-reaching conference and his expertise in software for architects, I said yes.

ACADIA, Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, has a conference every year and this year it's being hosted by the School of the Art Institute. I'll be blogging on the presentations and keynotes that I'm able to attend, the opening keynote tonight features UNStudio's Christian Veddeler head of design integration, David will take on the rest. The workshop component begins today with the conference extending until Sunday.

It's with the conference component later this week that I have a scheduling conflict. It overlaps another huge conference with global reach, that brought to us by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, CTBUH. This one is hosted by IIT and features such speakers as Richard Tomasetti, Donna Robertson, Arthur Gensler, Steven Holl, Bill Baker, Adrian Smith, and Mayor Richard M. Daley. Whew.

You'd think they would have gotten together to work out a schedule. After all, you can't design a tall building any more without a legion of human AND computer power.

As if this wasn't enough, Farshid Moussavi of Foreign Office Architects is lecturing in Chicago on Wednesday night. Oh, and that Palleroni lecture tomorrow night.

Architects Needed for Design Charette at IIT

On Saturday, Oct 24th at Crown Hall, IIT is hosting a charette for the design of a new transportation hub at 35th and Federal. Architects are wanted to be added to teams of IIT architecture students. There is a fee to participate but it's offset by the lunch provided. RSVP

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Pecha Kucha Presentation

For those of you that missed it but wanted to see it, for those that saw it and need to see it again, and for those of you that are easily distracted, here is my Pecha Kucha Night Chicago presentation. My sincere thanks to Matt Dumich of Young Architects Forum, Peter Exley and his gang of volunteers responsible for bringing PKN to Chicago 6 or 8 times a year, and everyone who came out to offer their support. A special thanks to Thorsten Bosch for tolerating my pestering and sending me the video.

The next PKN is December 1st, see you there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Volunteer opportunity: Ask an Architect this Saturday

Chicago Bungalow needs volunteers on short notice. To make the cut, you must be licensed, be in good standing with the AIA, have experience in single family and especially vintage homes and experience with implementation of green technologies would be nice. Interested? Contact Chris Turley.
More information.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

IIT College of Architecture Symposium: What Next?

This Saturday, October 17th, with a keynote speech on Friday night, IIT will be hosting a symposium promising to address the impact of the following influences on the profession: rapid global urbanization, looming environmental change, algorithmic form generation, digital modeling and economic upheaval. The organizers have lined up an impressive roster of architects and educators to present the latest developments in these areas.

Here's a taste of the schedule:

Friday, 16 October 6 pm
Wishnick Hall, IIT,
3255 S. Dearborn Street

Keynote Address
Robert Somol
Director and Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture

Saturday, 17 October 9 am — 6:30 pm
McCormick Tribune Campus Center, IIT,
3201 S. State Street

What Next for Interface?
Joel Sanders
Associate Professor, Yale University
Principal, Joel Sanders Architect, New York

What Next for Probability?
Luke Ogrydziak + Zoë Prillinger
Friedman Assistant Professors,
University of California at Berkley
Ogrydziak/Prillinger Architects, San Francisco

What Next for the Avant-Garde?
Michael Meredith
Associate Professor, Harvard University
Principal, MOS, Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT

What Next for Resources?
Sandy Isenstadt
Associate Professor, University of Delaware
Member, Institute for Advanced Studies

What Next for the Past?
Andrew Herscher
Assistant Professor, University of Michigan

What Next for Futurology?
Felicity Scott
Assistant Professor, Columbia University

Plus a roundtable discussion with:
Joseph Rosa
Chair of
Architecture and Design, Art Institute of Chicago

The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited. If you're interested in hearing about where the profession may be headed from leading practitioners and educators, RSVP.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Upcoming Lectures

Check out the much-neglected sidebar for some outstanding lectures over the next two weeks including some heavy-hitting theorists at UIC (I've noticed a recurring theme here). Don't forget Sergio Palleroni, not a theorist-a practicist? Well, he's certainly an activist. He'll be here Oct 20th. Tune in tomorrow for information about a symposium at IIT this weekend. I hope your Friday evening and Saturday is clear.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Post AIA Conference Post

I wanted to write a brief reflection about my experience at the conference including some of the highlights as I think it would be relevant to the architecture community at large.

The three themes of the conference, Building Information Model (BIM), Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), and sustainability certainly resonated throughout the seminars. So much so that, in many cases, the content of several seminars overlapped.

What I really wanted to convey to you was the impact of the opening and closing keynote speakers. The first speaker, Larry Prusak, talked about knowledge for an hour and a half. And while that may seem like a boring speech to sit through, he delivered it with such wit and enthusiasm that we were all on the edges of our seats. I easily could have listened to another 2 hours.

He talked about knowledge as the new commodity but, paradoxically, we are unable to exchange it as a commodity. And, unlike the old standby commodities, land, labor and capital, we don't run out of knowledge when we use it. In fact, it tends to increase when we share it. Some memorable quotes:

Knowledge has the tendency to stick. It's sticky.

Cognitive Diversity.

We should be teaching children rhetoric instead of calculus.

He referred to many present-day and historical references, describing companies like Intel that scour the globe for personnel and a company in Norway that has 30 "idea makers" whose job it is to find new ideas by talking to researches, academics and scientists throughout the world and bring back those ideas to the company.

What does this mean for architects? In the last 100 we have become more of a private club rejecting outside ideas or even closing ourselves off completely as a result, in my opinion, of our huge, bloated egos. I’ve often heard architects complain about structural engineers or contractors. In my experience, the more successful projects have been those where there is more of a collaborative effort and the architect welcomes the advice from contractors and engineers rather than stifling them at the risk of being proven wrong.

The closing keynote speech by Dr. Daniel S. Friedman, Dean of the College of Built Environments at Washington University was equally compelling and an appropriate way to end the conference. He talked about the profession changing, or rather, not changing while the world around it does. He suggested it was leaving us exposed to the potential of deregulation and referenced the deregulation of architects in the U.K. With all the talk about BIM throughout the seminar, we have to realize that we are no longer representing buildings with lines but we are now building models with objects, in effect simulating construction. This has the potential of bridging a huge gap between professionals and lay-people or students of architecture that previously existed, potentially lessening the value of the architect.

He proposed changes in the way architecture students are educated as well as the need of seasoned practitioners to teach and criticized the current system of tenure, saying some of these professors have never practiced and will never retire reducing the chances for change to occur at the university level.

He likened his new profession of architecture to that of the scientific or medical community in which university education, and especially research are extremely important to their respective fields. I've often regretted the fact that we in the architecture community are so competitive that there is a lack of collaboration that I feel is sorely missing. Perhaps if we had some kind of governing body or publication, like the Journal of Medicine, architects would be more inclined to share their ideas as there would be a method of providing and tracking acknowledgment.

On academia, he had 10 principals that he has been proposing throughout universities and to the NAAB:

1 treat the entire curriculum like studio - all studio all the time
2 use research to drive design (design as skill, design as an epistemology)
- type drove 19th
- program drove 20th
- research drives 21st
3 teach more building science (NAAB criteria should be ~ 50/50 in technical knowledge)
4 mandate teamwork
5 replace the jury system with studio rounds (like medical rounds / grand rounds for final reviews)
6 dissect abandoned buildings (access to building pathology…)
7 use case method to teach professional practice and ethics (courage to face uncertainty)
8 interdigitate research and internship
9 require internship for accreditation
10 quality interns for licensure at graduation

One of my favorites is the Studio in the Round, as doctors have, in lieu of the current system of critiques and jurors. He criticizes the current system saying we teach our students how to fail rather than how to succeed.

I spoke to him afterward and suggested that he could tackle architectural education reform from two ends rather than from just the universities. If the AIA has been able to incorporate mandatory green Learning Units, why not mandatory research or teaching units?

If you ever have a chance to hear either of these two gentlemen speak, I highly recommend it. I also recommend following Dr. Freidman’s work. Change is inevitable and it remains to be seen whether we as architects will step up to the responsibly or whether we will continue to ride the wave while outside influences force us to change to accommodate them. Lets put the leader back in architect.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Palleroni Lecture Countdown

On the evening of October 20th, architect and activist Sergio Palleroni will present a lecture of his work and experiences at the Graham Foundation. It should pair well with the new exhibit opening that week at the Graham called Actions. More on that later.

When planning for this started, Mr. Palleroni's name sounded only vaguely familiar until I remembered seeing him featured on an episode of Design e2. One of the services his organization, BaSiC Initiative provides is teaching very poor communities how to build housing from materials available on the land. Often times these result in now forgotten methods of construction as was the case on the Design e2 episode when he taught a Native American community in Mexico how to build houses out of adobe brick. He thus not only provides what we would neatly categorize his housing as affordable, but he teaches communities how to build them for themselves, empowering them with skills they can pass on to future generations indefinitely.

As a sort of countdown to the event, I'll be writing a series of posts on the organizations involved with planning the lecture. Over the next three weeks, look for posts in the form of summaries or interviews or both about National Public Housing Museum, City Design Center, Graham Foundation, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Converge:Exchange, ADPSR, LL Consulting, SHED Studio and Urban Habitat Chicago.

The lecture will be followed by a panelist discussion with a chance to ask questions. This is a rare opportunity and I, for one, am grateful for Mr. Palleroni donating his time like this to share his craft with us. The lecture starts at 6pm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blogging for the AIA

For the next 3 days I'll be blogging from AIA's Changing Times|Time for Change conference at the Wyndham Hotel. They asked if I was interested and, upon reviewing the schedule of topics, I said yes. You can find my posts here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Volunteers Needed in September for Exhibition Evaluation Project

From the Chicago Architecture Foundation:

Gallery Observations for Chicago Model City

CAF is looking for volunteers to be part of an important project this year that will help us better understand our audience visitation for exhibitions in the atrium space. Volunteers are needed to help evaluate the effectiveness of the 2009 exhibition Chicago Model City which runs June 11-November 21, 2009. Volunteers will conduct gallery movement observations, hand out surveys to visitors, and track attendance numbers.

If you have an interest in learning more about the interests of CAF’s audiences and the effectiveness of CAF’s marketing and exhibition development please join us on this project!

We are currently looking for volunteers during the week of Friday, September 25 – Thursday, October 1. Shifts run in 2-1/2 hour increments from 9am – 6:30pm. Service hours will be earned for each shift.

To sign up, please contact Barbara Gordon at bgordon@architecture.org or 312-922-3432 ext 225.

See my previous post about the exhibit here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Exhibit Review: The Glue Factory

On Friday, I attended the opening of a new exhibit at I-Space, The Glue Factory. On display was documentation of peoples' fears.

Curated by Rashmi Ramaswamy and Mike Newman of
Shed Studio and Helen Slade, all of whom are part of The Museum of Contemporary Phenomenon, this show is the culmination of a number of studies and surveys that began with an interactive method for community members to state their fears in a gallery exhibit called "What Do You Fear?/House of Fear". Ms. Ramaswamy was surprised to find the majority of fears surrounding issues of growing old: alone, without money, unable to take care of one's self, degradation of mental and physical capacities. "Especially since, at the time, the major news headlines were about global issues such as the Afghan and Iraq wars and the fight on terrorism. The fears were rather selfish considering the issues being broadcast in the news."

Which is what makes The Glue Factory so well-timed today; health care and domestic issues are the big stories of the day. I've said
before, it's good to see architects take on social issues. We're so often focused on the built environment, the needs of the client and budgetary constraints that we never consider the social impact we may be making (or most often, the social impact we're not making).

The Glue Factory is on display on the 2nd floor of the
I-Space gallery and runs through October 10th.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Declared Day of Service

What will you do?

If the plethora of links on the sidebar don't float your boat, I recommend contacting your alderman. Often times they will have a list of not-for-profits on their website. At the very least, they will have someone on staff to point you in the right direction.

Can't weasel out of work today? Here are two ideas for tomorrow. As mentioned in a
previous post, Rebuilding Together is conducting interviews of homeowners as well as scoping their homes to qualify them for their rebuilding day in April.

Also tomorrow, I'm coordinating a team on behalf of
Architecture for Humanity Chicago Chapter to head out to Peoples Church to do some field measuring. They provide church services on Sunday, yes, but the rest of the time they provide shelter for the homeless on their other floors. Here are some photos. The ultimate goal will be to document this beautiful and historic building but they have an immediate need for ADA upgrades and new restrooms. The more the merrier so if you're interested hit that little Contact Me link in the sidebar and send me a note.

Now I just have to figure out how to be in two places at once...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rebuilding Together this Saturday

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to shadow experienced Rebuilding Together interviewers. They typically work in pairs going to homes that have applied for this program. Once at the home, one person interviews the homeowner while the other scopes the house for rehab potential. There are so many homes and so much need for help that they will be doing these interviews for several more weekends. Once a home is approved it is added to the list of homes to be rehabbed on the building day which usually occurs in April. Last year Rebuilding Together rehabbed more than 75 homes - in one day!

I'll be there this Saturday, September 12th as well, this time on my own - that is, no shadowing. There's lots to do so please come and help out. Directions and contact info below:

Please join us at the Park National Bank at 11 W. Madison St. in Oak Park at 8:30 am this Saturday morning, September 12th.
Driving Directions: The bank is easily accessible by exiting I-290 at Austin Blvd (Exit 23A). Travel north 5 blocks and turn Left on Madison Ave. The bank and parking lot are on the south side of the street. (Please park in the gravel lot near the bank, not the paved lot). We will be meeting on the 2nd floor.Public Transit Directions: Take the Green Line to the Austin stop. We will be happy to arrange to pick you up from the train. The bank in approx. 5 blocks south of the train station. Please let me know if you would like a ride. Please also tell us if you will not be bringing a vehicle so I can make sure each team has a car.

Please keep my cell phone number in case you need to contact me for any reason, Andrea's cell: (920)650-0994.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pecha Kucha Chicago - Tomorrow!

What?!! September already?! Start it off (or end summer) with a bang.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 1st, I'll be presenting at the 11th installment of the Chicago Pecha Kucha Night. The other presenters and the batting order have been established and can be found on the website. As a reminder, the chances of it selling out are pretty good. 21 and over, doors at 6pm, show at 8:20pm. Buy tickets in advance or at the door. See you there.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rebuilding Together This Saturday

From Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago:

Please join us at the Park National Bank at 11 W. Madison St. in Oak Park at 8:30 am this Saturday morning, August 29th.

Driving Directions: The bank is easily accessible by exiting I-290 at Austin Blvd (Exit 23A). Travel north 5 blocks and turn Left on Madison Ave. The bank and parking lot are on the south side of the street. (Please park in the gravel lot near the bank, not the paved lot). We will be meeting on the 2nd floor.

Public Transit Direction: Take the Green Line to the Austin stop. We will be happy to arrange to pick you up from the train. Please let me know if you would like a ride.
Let me know if you will not be bringing a vehicle so I can make sure each team has a car.

If you are new to house selection or would like a refresher, take a look at our new training presentations attached. There is one presentation for skilled volunteers who will be reviewing repairs (workscope training) and one presentation for volunteers who will be interviewing the homeowner and checking documents (interviewer training).

Please contact Andrea, if you would like to sign up for this Saturday or any other upcoming Saturdays

Andrea Fritsch
Program Manager
Rebuilding Together * Metro Chicago
PO Box 641250, Chicago, IL 60664
P: (312)201-1188
F: (312)977-3805

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pecha Kucha Night Chicago Volume 11

Next Tuesday, September 1st, I'll be presenting at the 11th installment of the Chicago Pecha Kucha Night. I'll be talking about, what else, my blog and volunteering in Chicago in an architectural capacity. It hasn't been at its usual venue, Martyrs', for some time so the chances of it selling out are pretty good. 21 and over, doors at 6pm, show at 8:20pm. Buy tickets in advance or at the door. See you there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Legends South: The Results

A cook-out after party. Announcements are being made in the background honoring all of the volunteers.

Remember when I posted about the
Legends South Design Charette I attended back in July? The wrap-up party was last week and I had the opportunity to check out the new digs.

The barbeque zone.

This in-laid tile was just one of the details I was pleasantly surprised to find.

This was the first time I had seen the results of a charette I was a part of with Archi-teasures and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the quality impressive but many of the things we had discussed at the charette were implemented here at the site.

The adults hang-out on the west open area, the kids on the east.

Here's a quick run-down of the site: there are several apartment buildings arranged around a parking lot. The lot had an open green space on each side. Young children would play on one side and older kids would hang-out on the other. When people barbequed and hung-out, there would be nowhere to sit so they would sit on the steps of the back porches. This made it difficult to get down and out the back, especially as one of my team members described, while trying to get out with a bicycle.

The table and benches in the foreground are made of concrete in-laid with ceramic tile. They sit on substantial steel legs.

So a couple of tables of teams at the charette focused on the same site and proposed some of the same solutions. Permanent barbeques were installed on a concrete slab. Permanent tables and benches were also installed. On the other side a sort of playground was set-up consisting of a concrete water monster, stainless steel tusks and benches sized for children.

The childrens' side includes a concrete water monster, benches and a stainless steel tusk.

This development is on the former site of some of the infamous Robert Taylor Homes. So far it looks like a great improvement. I saw a wonderful sense of community and neighbor involvement.

Monkeying around on a stainless steel tusk.