Zaha Hadid's Guangzhou Opera House

Tomorrow Zaha Hadid's Guangzhou Opera House will be open to the world.  Located in one of China's newest cultural centers and overlooking the Pearl River, the Guangzhou Opera House is at the heart of Guangzhou's cultural sites development.  The 70,000 sqm project consists of two solid geometric forms wrapped with a structural exoskeleton.  The two components with their similar form, color and shared structural expression, create a strong artistic expression to house the cultural center.  The exterior angles are carried through into the interior crating consistency and unifying the visual experience, shaping dynamic gathering spaces.  The program consists of an 1,800 seat Grand theater, entrance lobby and lounge, multifunctional hall, and other auxiliary facilities & support premises.  Hadid explained to Archdaily that its unique twin boulder design will enhance urban function by opening access to the riverside and dock areas and creating a new dialogue with the emerging new town.


Philadelphia To Bid For 2026 World Expo; The Conversation Begins!

Back in December, the Ed Bacon Student Design Competition  challenged students on a subject that event organizers say Philadelphia must soon tackle if the place of our nation's birth is to be the epicenter of the country's 250th Birthday Party.  University-level students from all disciplines were asked to imagine an international World's Fair style celebration in Philadelphia, with activity centered in South Philadelphia, near the airport, stadiums, Fort Mifflin and FDR Park.  A team from Cornell University won first place with their design, called Confluence Philadelphia 2026, a venue that will reflect not only a positive effect for the city in 2026, but also a lasting legacy.  Considering, the first official World's Fair to be held in the United States was held in Philadelphia back in 1876 to celebrate the nation's 100th birthday (1876 Centennial Exposition), it only seems right to bring the expo back to the place where it all began, Philadelphia.

The student competition assignment was suggested by Andrew Hohns, a finance guy who ten years ago founded Young Involved Philadelphia and has more recently founded USA250, a non-profit organization aimed at not only bringing a year's worth of exhibitions in technology, sports, culture, history and the lively arts to the city, but using the celebration as a mechanism for attracting investment in the city's infrastructure from corporations, foundations, and other nations.

"I don't really see on the horizon many events that have the transformative capacity in terms of renewing infrastructure apart from USA 250," Hohns said.  "We have an opportunity to seize it."  This recorded by PlanPhilly at the award ceremony.

Hohns and his group are in the beginning stages, talking to movers and shakers in government, industry and philanthropy.  As things move forward, he will share the students' work with those who may be planning for the 250th exhibitions and their long-range impact.  The USA250 non-profit will soon be a 501(c)3 corporation, Hohn said.  It will then need a board of directors and some full-time, paid staff to define a vision and reach out to the corporations, foundations, government leaders and citizens who can make it happen.  One of the first goals will be raising seed money of between $500,000 and $1 million.

Hohns also talked about a few other big ideas, like General Electric being the electricity sponsor and in honor of the 250th anniversary presenting a Philadelphia neighborhood as the neighborhood of the future.   The homes could be outfitted with solar rooftops, fiber optic cables, and top-of-the-line energy-saving insulation possibly taking the neighborhood completely off the grid.  Other nations could build pavilions and other infrastructure showcasing the contribution they had in the development of America and Philadelphia.  Poland, for example, could build an exhibition in Port Richmond that could become a Polish-American Community Center.  China could make a gift of a Chinese Garden, a public green space built in decks over I-676 that would unite the north and south portions of Philadelphia's Chinatown with a beautiful public green space. The city could also use 2026 as a deadline to meet goals like lessening poverty and increasing literacy.

The 2026 event, Hohns believes, would do much more for the city than the Olympics.  The Olympics is only a couple of weeks in the summer, he said.  This could be a whole year of events- and, if done right, a huge boost in infrastructure and commerce.  Honestly, if Philadelphia can win the 2024 Olympics and the 2026 World Expo, the city would surely be in the perfect position to secure funding that will support both events.  The city's location is also key, smack dab in the middle of the North East Corridor, the expo and games would surely bring revenues to neighboring hubs like New York, Washington, and Boston.

The Cornell team contemplated "worlds fair" buildings and exhibition spaces becoming permanent structures, including residential housing.  They have developed an ecologically friendly plan, of not just temporary spaces that will be torn down at the exhibitions end.  they imagined the fair to be a catalyst for development, fostering national pride and establishing the USA as a leader in sustainable industry and development.  By fostering a Public-Private vision for successful development and clearly defined programming and goals, the fair would have a much greater chance at producing a successful and sustainable economic turn around for the city.  The team addressed energy and waste distribution, expansion of park land and wet land reclamation, and improved connections through trails and transit.

Images courtesy of Winning Cornell Team


2024 Olympics In Philadelphia; Is It Possible?

Could Americas birthplace be the home of the 2024 Olympic Games?  Studies say it is possible, but not without some serious convincing and support from the regional business community.  Although Philadelphia lost the bid for the 2016 games, the city has already been putting itself in the position to be considered a world class city, with Philly 2015 efforts to green the city and further ambitions to become America's greenest city by 2035, the new City Zoning Code, the new Delaware River Master Plan, and a proposed 2015 construction date for the first phase of high-speed rail between Philadelphia and New York.

Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said if Philadelphia wants to host the olympics, its earliest realistic chance would be the 2024 Summer Games.  A study conducted by eleven graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania's city and regional planning department showed that Philadelphia should consider bidding for the 2024 Games.

Bidding cities typically would start the process about ten years before the games.  The process includes persuading the business community to finance an initial bid that could cost $10 million to $15 million.  The students' study said among the city's biggest challenges would be convincing the voters who select the host city that Philadelphia is a "world-class-city", a feat that would require strategic changes in the city's landscape in conjunction with a persuasive marketing strategy.

A big challenge for Philadelphia would be cleaning up its trash.  This goes far beyond its streets and transit stations, although in the city's defense I don't think the streets and stations are too bad.  On arrival to the city from the Philadelphia International Airport, visitors are greeted from the air by tours of abandoned oil tanks, derelict structures, and tons of waste.  When arriving by train at 30th Street Station travelers pass through trash strewn, crumbling railroad corridors, lined with abandoned buildings and ware houses.

What lies in Philadelphia's favor is its location.  It is in the middle of a growing densely populated mega-region, known as the North East Corridor home to over 49 million residents and 18% of the U.S. population stretching from Boston to Washington.  By the time of the Olympic Games the population is predicted to grow to 58 million.  This of course is cause for great investment on infrastructure improvements to regional city to city connections.  There are also many programs underway that would contribute to the long-term bid effort.

The city already has a good infrastructure to support the games, minor improvements and additional stations and connections may have to be addressed.  There are countless resources between the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Villanova University.  There is ample land for the Olympic Village above the rail yards at 30th street or at the Navy Yard which is minutes away from a well organized sports complex.  The Schuylkill River is a great place for water sports and additional events could be expanded to the Delaware and Camden Waterfronts.  The city is home to three major stadiums and a future soccer stadium down the road in Chester, PA.  New Facilities will have to be built, but this could mean healthy development and use of the sports complex and Navy Yard.  An event of this scale is very possible with a great amount of regional support.

Philadelphia is also a proposed site for a 2026 World Exhibition, planned to fall on the 250th Birthday of the United States.  The city is the site of the former 1876 Centennial Exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the nation's birth. The 250th anniversary offers a fresh opportunity for Philadelphia to host an international exposition.


Rincon/ Bates House/ Studio 27 Architecture

The home is a re-conceptualization of an end row house unit in Capitol Hill, Washington DC.  Originally built in 1906 the house was last renovated in the early 1970's, but the interior space remained a series of compartmentalized programmed rooms respectfully representative of more traditional lifestyles.  Studio 27 Architects approached the project with the intent to re-configure the existing circulation pattern with thoughtful consideration for the ecological impact of the project.  The scope of the project evolved through an investigation of sectional manipulation focusing on apertures, daylight and natural ventilation.

The Architects strategically displaced the dark, musty interior with a sense of openness, both in plan and section, to create a more distinct series of relationships between traditionally separated hierarchical programs.  Studio 27 carved a void through the middle of the house over the dinning room, enabling shared light between all spaces, and introduced operable skylights to create a stack effect to control ventilation.  Energy and water consumption are additionally minimized through the use of tank less gas-powered water heaters, new low E glass windows and doors, bio-based insulation, low-flow plumbing fixtures and dual flush wall hung toilets, and all interior finishes are domestically resourced recycled and formaldehyde-free to improve indoor air quality.


Union Station's Bicycle Transit Center

In the midst of a livable cities movement, D.C.'s transit hub has taken the next step to encourage alternative means of transportation.  The transit hub is promoting bicycle use by providing secure parking, rental, and retail uses.  The kiosk's sleek form echoes a bicycles wheel's elegance and efficiency with arched steel tubes stabilized by a series of "spokes" or stainless steel tie rods in order to lighted the structure.  An energy efficient "skin" optimizes transparency while further moderating temperature.  Further minimizing heat gain, denser graduated ceramic frit low-e glazing, opens up progressively to views of the plaza level.

New York's BIG Debut

Bjarke Ingels and BIG finally make their U.S. debut in non other than New York City.   The asymmetrical, pyramidal, warped rectangle shaped building is an ingenious marriage of the New York skyscraper and the low-rise traditional European perimeter block building.  BIG's reinvention of the New York apartment building created a democratic living environment for all residents.  W57, named for the street on the Hudson River where the planned 600-unit structure will span, will rise to 467 feet at the northeast tip then dip at the other three corners, with a large courtyard in the center. It's designed to open up views and natural daylight to every residential unit in the building.  Each unit has either a balcony or a bay window giving all tenants access to incredible views.  The courtyard will be available to both residents and the public, and provide insulated green space to a part of the city short on parks.


Work or Play? Inspiring Unconventional Offices

This post is about a series of unconventional work spaces created for ordinary people to help bring out that superhuman creativity we all too often let go of.

Spanish Architect firm Selgas Cano- vibrant yet low-impact office that merges into the landscape.

Facebook's new 150,000 square-foot office at Palo Alto, California.  The company opted to leave some of the walls white to encourage employees to add the finishing touches.

Adobe's Office- Artist and designer Honchaymoi's Visualization for a future Adobe office.

Google Offices in Stockholm, Milan, Zurich, Madrid, and Munich