Oculus - Spring 2015 - (Page 28)

feature: RESEARCH A Results-Oriented Think Tank Defining architectural practice broadly enough to include research, theory, and public discourse, Grimshaw's Urban Research Unit is a full-circle activity leading to a richer built environment BY BiLL miLLArd moment spent in Fulton Center evokes its designers' sophisticated understanding of the transit experience. The bright new hub unites a tangled maze of transit concourses into three interweaving levels wrapping an atrium lit by James Carpenter's light-channeling sculpture Sky Reflector-Net. Grimshaw's latest contribution to New York signifies that its expertise in largescale urban projects can be successfully augmented by a thinktank auxiliary. Under the leadership of New York partner Andrew Whalley, AIA, RIBA, and Mark Davy of London's placemaking agency Futurecity, the British firm has channeled its theoretical work through the Urban Research Unit (URU). Conceived initially as a single-year initiative in partnership with Futurecity and the Royal Society of Arts, then extended with further products in mind (including an exhibition and publications), URU presented panels in New York and London during 2013-2014 (video-excerpted at www.urbanresearchunit.com). These events convened public and nonprofit-sector officials, developers, artists, scholars, newscasters, and others to examine "The Future City" through eight conceptual lenses: definitions, work, housing, navigation, play, economics, culture, and greening. AIANY's 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, URU's academic advisor (an involvement that arose through conversations with Whalley and Grimshaw Partner Vincent Chang, AIA, RIBA, during the planning of Via Verde with Dattner Architects), describes URU as a "nouveau salon," an outgrowth of the tradition of "people talking who are respected for their knowledge in a very conversational setting, making the flow of information between those on the podium and those in the audience fairly easy." Like Richard Sennett's Theatrum Mundi at the London School of Economics, URU creates space for speculation apart from the demands of specific projects. More than a talk shop Far from being academic in the sense of "unrealistic," however, URU focuses on results. Both Grimshaw and Futurecity, Davy says, "wanted to create a research unit that was dealing with deliverables, with ideas that could actually be applied. There's so 28 Oculus Spring 2015 ©James Ewing A At Fulton Center, Grimshaw "went the distance to make an inside-outside relationship," says Lance Jay Brown, FAIA. Transparency and daylight are maximized through the angled oculus and James Carpenter's Sky Reflector-Net. "There is an extremely progressive attitude towards leading with technological solutions, ways in which you can humanize the city." much theory around urbanism and the city, but it's very hard to find ways of applying that intelligence." The eight panels build a "toolkit for the Cultural City," as Davy has written, "to turn our towns and cities into the locus of creative and cultural genius." One driving principle for URU is to integrate varieties of play into an environment's master plan. The research is intended to persuade bottom-line-oriented developers of the value - social and cultural as well as economic - of making places that tease out the unique aspects of locality and use. As private entities increasingly fund arts, parks, and sports, developers should be talking to placemaking specialists with public-sector experience (a hallmark of both Grimshaw and Futurecity). "London is driven by this incredible property-sector boom," Davy comments. "One big change in the U.K. has been the realization that culture is becoming the linchpin of placemaking." He contrasts the "vacuous field of somewhere like Canary Wharf " with vibrant hubs on various scales. Single buildings can transform public life, as in the auditorium/gallery/café added to the flagship Foyle's Bookshop when it expanded into the St. Martin's Arts School in 2014, which itself is a repurposed industrial granary that has become a centerpiece of the massive King's Cross redevelopment. Davy notes that "developers here are beginning to encourage the cultural organizations to stay and try to make their money work differently. We've said to developers, 'On street level, where commercial spaces are, why don't you see that as a loss leader? Give that away so you have a creative life on the street, but make your money from the residential above it.'" In newly developing industrial districts like London's Nine Elms Dialogues from the Edge of Practice http://www.urbanresearchunit.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2015

First Words Letter from the President Repositioning All Around By Tomas Rossant, AIA
Letter from the Editor The Edge of New By Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA
Center for Architecture Center Highlights
One Block Over Rough Waters: Squalls continue over the redevelopment of South Street Seaport By Claire Wilson
Opener: Thinking Into Other Boxes By David Zach
Mars in the Bronx CASE gets new environmental technologies out of labs and into buildings at (relative) warp speed By Jonathan Lerner
Spinning Research Into Practice Intense experimentation with digital technologies is yielding remarkable designs and products by ARO By Lisa Delgado
A Results-Oriented Think Tank Defining architectural practice broadly enough to include research, theory, and public discourse, Grimshaw’s Urban Research Unit is a full-circle activity leading to a richer built environment By Bill Millard
The Resilience Factor Perkins+Will is making resilience design and planning a growing area of practice and income By Richard Staub
Socrates at the Drafting Table REX champions a slow thinktank architecture of methodical problem-solving By Janet Adams Strong
Architecture in the Social Data Era Transforming our practice to engage new data sources and design intents By Melissa Marsh
Museum as Incubator The New Museum hatches a multidisciplinary workspace to nurture creative entrepreneurs By Julia van den Hout
When Bottom-up Meets Top-down The benefits of community engagement in post-disaster rebuilding plans By Deborah Gans, FAIA
In Print Bricks & Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People They Made By Tom Wilkinson Tales of Two Cities: Paris, London and the Birth of the Modern City By Jonathan Conlin Visionaries in Urban Development: 15 Years of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize Winners By Trisha Riggs, et al. American Urban Form: A Representative History By Sam Bass Warner and Andrew H. Whittemore Preservation is Overtaking Us By Rem Koolhaas, with a supplement by Jorge Otero-Pailos Reviews by Stanley Stark, FAIA
31-Year Watch Architectural practice once embraced dinner plates and candlesticks produced by Swid Powell By John Morris Dixon, FAIA
Last Words Eve of Construction By Rick Bell, FAIA
Index to Advertisers Alphabetical & Categorical Index

Oculus - Spring 2015

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