Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pritzker Prize 2012

   This year's Pritzker Prize winner has recently been announced!  The laureate is Chinese architect Wang Shu of Amateur Architecture Studio.  This name comes as a surprise to me and just about everyone else, not because of the quality of his work but because of the relative anonymity of the firm until this award.  AIA's Architect magazine reported that as of last weekend Mr. Wang did not even have a Wikipedia article.  Wang Shu is furthermore the first Chinese citizen to win the Pritzker prize -- 1983 winner IM Pei, though born in China, had lived in the United States since 1935.
   The unfortunate dearth of information regarding Amateur Architecture Studio's work precludes the possibility of investigating thoroughly their projects beyond reposting their website's project list.  Perhaps most prominent among those projects is the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum, shown below.  Full descriptions of their work can be found at the link subtitling this photo under the "Projects" tab.
Photographs from http://www.chinese-architects.com/en/amateur/en/
   Admittedly, i find it difficult to keep up with firms trending popular in the architecture community.  It is much easier and less controversial to discuss great architecture that has been standing for decades or centuries than it is to analyze new works, which is probably why a two semester History of Architecture composed an integral part of my education, while an overview of current architecture did not.  Never fear that F/stop Architectural will shy away from critique of modern design, though.  In fact, today we will highlight those firms that are currently most respected in the field.
   Rather than list previous Pritzker winners, we'll examine some contemporary firms.  Architect Magazine, the official magazine of the AIA (see permanent links at right) occasionally ranks architecture firms by such criteria as "Awards Won", "Sustainability", "Net Revenue per Employee", or some permutation of those by different names.  While i take some exception to profitability as a metric for design quality, this list is as official as any, so let us briefly examine the top ten firms from the most recent report (May 2011).

Perkins+Will, established 1935
Chicago, Illinois

Recently Awarded For: 
University of Washington Medicine, Lake Union, Phase II Research Complex
Seattle, Washington

SmithGroup, established 1853
Detroit, Michigan

Recently Awarded For:
Freeport-McMoRan Center
Phoenix, Arizona

William Rawn Associates, established 1983
Boston, Massachusetts

Recently Awarded For:
Williams College '62 Center for Theater and Dance
Williamstown, Massachusetts

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, established 1936
Chicago, Illinois

Recently Awarded For:
KAFD Muqarnas Tower
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Ann Beha Architects, established 1980
Boston, Massachusetts

Recently Awarded For:
University of Pennsylvania Music Building
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sasaki Associates, established 1953
Watertown, Massachusetts

Recently Awarded For:
University of Missouri Kansas City Miller Nichols Library, Phase One
Kansas City, Missouri

Ikon.5 Architects, established 2003
Princeton, New Jersey

Recently Awarded For:
Kirkwood Public Library
New Castle, Delaware

DLR Group, established 1966
Omaha, Nebraska

Recently Awarded For:
Marysville Getchell High School
Marysville, Washington

ZGF Architects, established 1942
Portland, Oregon

Recently Awarded For:
University of Texas at Arlington Engineering Research Building
Arlington, Texas

FXFowle, established 1978
New York, New York

Recently Awarded For:
Eleven Times Square
New York, New York

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Triumphant Return!

   After what i admit was a longer than planned hiatus, it is Tuesday and F/stop Architectural is back!  I was busy until the end of 2011 with M.Arch applications, and by then the habit was broken.  But!  I find myself with the mixed blessing of additional free time, so it is high time to return to sharing hidden architectural treasures with my loyal readership.  Hello loyal readership!
   Because many of my recent applications include references to this website, i have decided to feature one of my own works for this first update of the 2012 season.  These are my own images, so i have hosted them here at high resolution for your viewing pleasure.  Please do not copy, redistribute, or publish these images without my express permission.  Do click on the images to view at full size!  They're rather hard to read at 550 pixel-widths.

   When i work on designs for my own study, i like to give them working titles.  This one is the "Santa Fe House" in reference to the prevailing style of adobe construction and flat roofs historically typical to the area.  However, this design tends closer to a modernist flair than a pueblo influence.
   One of my personal beliefs on design is that concepts must blend at least three source typologies to form a personalized hybrid.  First, unavoidably, is the bias of the designer's own upbringing.  The remaining two can be any blend of template and highlight.  In this case, the highlight is the borrowed idea of an interior courtyard typical of Moorish homes built on the Iberian peninsula (as well as many other areas).  The courtyard is constructed at a double height with large quantities of operable clerestory glazing.  This allows a flood of light to penetrate all the adjoining rooms regardless of the sun's position.
   The light corridor also serves a vital passive cooling role in the house.  The large planting bed on the thick north wall captures the harsh daylight sun and provides a large thermal mass that cools during the daytime and warms the home at night.  The large, shallow water feature additionally provides evaporative cooling, and the operable windows above allow the hottest air to escape.
   All bedrooms and the office are located on the north side of the building, as this is the ideal location for diffused daylight, which provides the best color rendering...which is very important if you care about that kind of thing.  The living spaces have been divided into a more formal space typically used for entertaining and a slightly more private family room set 1/4 floor lower.
   The more public kitchen area is arranged to allow the increasingly typical dinner party m.o. of chatting with the chef.  However, it is also placed at a terminal location of the house to prevent conflicting uses (i.e., corridor space while the cook cooks).  A refrigerated space below the bar table is included in this drawing, but could be swapped for additional cupboard space if a client opted for the far more awesome sunken-wine-cooler-staircase.  Because of the forgiving climate, an entry area attached to the garage has been omitted, although there is access to the kitchen via the rear garage door.

   The upper floor of the home, 3/4 of a floor higher, is dedicated to the master bedroom.  A sliding door is provided to create an enclosed space if there is a desire for additional privacy, but is, strictly speaking, unnecessary.  A walk-out balcony located above the lower floor is oriented to the west of the house to maximize sunlight in the evening hours when it would typically be occupied.  Low glass walls surround the majority of the balcony, but privacy walls extend on either corner to limit the visibility onto the deck.
   That's about it -- i'd love to include elevations of this work, but i find AutoCAD rather lacking in rendering visually interesting elevations.  In the past i would have used Rhino and either Flamingo or Penguin, but unfortunately my student copy is no longer valid.  If there's an angel donor out there that would like to send me a (legal) copy, i'd be incredibly grateful (and surprised!  Rhino is way too expensive).  Hope you enjoyed this spotlight, and hopefully i'll be back next Tuesday!