Metropolis January/February 2023

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Bringing Tech Down to Earth

When digital fantasy meets the real world

Virginia San Fratello at San Jose State University


The ideal office system for the modern workplace, GSD’s tables and benches feature built-in power sources that keep devices charged and help teams Get Stuff Done.

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Hi-Tech, Hi-Gloss 76

A new wave of designers blend elements of High-Tech Architecture, creating interiors and objects that are a testament to function as ornament.

Salt of the Earth 94

The work of Oakland, California–based design firm Rael San Fratello transcends categories but always remains grounded.

The Wizard of Wood 86
Shigeru Ban, the Pritzker Prize–winning maestro of timber architecture, weighs in on contemporary mass timber buildings.
Metropolis’s Responsible Disruptors program honors A&D technology projects that make a positive impact.

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TOP: COURTESY KYRRE SUNDAL; BOTTOM: COURTESY DAVID BOYER CONTRIBUTORS 16 IN THIS ISSUE 18 THINK TANK 20 SPECTRUM 32 SOURCED Craft and Context 44 TRANSPARENCY Floor Show 46 PRODUCTS Sleek Chic 48 SUSTAINABLE Park Place 52 REUSE Radical Repurpose 58 DEPARTMENTS JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023, Volume 43, Number 1. METROPOLIS® (ISSN 0279-4977) is published six times a year, bimonthly. Periodical postage is paid in New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0861642. Publications Mail Agreement No. 40028983. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to circulation department or DPGM, 4960-2 Walker Rd., Windsor, ON N9A 6J3. Postmaster: Send address changes to Metropolis, PO Box 8552, Big Sandy, TX 75755. Subscription department: (800) 344-3046. Subscriptions: Six issues for $32.95 U.S.A., $52.95 Canada, $69.95 airmail all other countries. Domestic single copies $9.95; back issues $14.95. Copyright © 2023 by Sandow Media. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher. Metropolis will not be responsible for the return of any unsolicited manuscripts or photographs. Publishing and editorial office is at 3651 NW 8th Avenue, Boca Raton, FL 33431. On the cover: Virginia San Fratello at San Jose State University, photographed by Kelsey McClellan WORKPLACE On the Grid 64 NEW TALENT AnthropologistArchitects 68 INSIGHT Personalizing the Buyer Journey 72 NOTEWORTHY Dolores Hayden 112 p. 58 22 What makes an architecture and design practice unique? How do firms and offices develop areas of expertise, deep insights, and passion projects? Metropolis editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal sat down with 20 firms in 2022, to find out. Here are nine architecture and design leaders on what gives them their edge. p. 64 METROPOLIS 10 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023
FROM TOP COUNTERCLOCKWISE: COURTESY GLUCK+; COURTESY RAFAEL GAMO; COURTESY DMINTI METAVERSE AND JOSEPHINE MECKSEPER Meet the Firm Building New Amenities for New York’s Underserved Communities With a unique combination of architecture and construction expertise, GLUCK+ brings top-quality design to nonprofits and public institutions in northern Manhattan and the Bronx. METROPOLISMAG.COM More of your favorite Metropolis stories, online daily Join discussions with industry leaders and experts on the most important topics of the day. Register for free at think-tank
Hani Rashid Builds a Fantasia of Art and Architecture in the Metaverse Called Dminti Metaverse, the platform displays digital work by blue-chip artists in an otherworldly setting with the aim of attracting new, more diverse audiences. At Deutsche Bank’s New York Headquarters, Work Is About More than the Desk A move uptown was an opportunity for the financial giant and Gensler, its designer, to explore a new, more flexible way of working. METROPOLIS 12 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023
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EDITOR IN CHIEF Avinash Rajagopal





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Rita Lobo is a Brazilian-British journalist who splits her time between London, Montreal, and Rio de Janeiro. She has covered topics from business to travel, but found her niche covering architecture and design internationally. When she is not traveling the world looking at architectural gems, she writes for film and TV, with her debut feature set to hit screens in 2023. Lobo wrote this issue’s Workplace column (p. 64) on Bio Square.


Cindy Hernandez is a design historian and writer from New York City. Her research interests include futurity, utopias, theme parks, videogames, and American material culture. In 2017, she cofounded the Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute, a grassroots open-source design historical resource focused on archiving micro-trends and movements in design. She has a master of arts in history of design and curatorial studies from The New School. Hernandez penned “Hi-Tech, Hi-Gloss” (p. 76) for this issue.


Kelsey McClellan is a still-life, portrait, and documentary photographer based in San Francisco. She is inspired by wry humor, the mundane, and interesting and unexpected color combinations. In 2021 she self-published a book of her ongoing personal project titled If This Isn’t Nice. For this issue, McClellan photographed Rael San Fratello principals Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello for “Salt of the Earth” (p. 94).

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Building Technologies, With Purpose

As a millennial who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, I’m still surprised that we look back on those years with nostalgia in graphic design and fashion. Now in “Hi-Tech, Hi-Gloss” (p. 76), writer Cindy Hernandez analyzes how a slew of interior design projects around the world are revisiting that era’s celebration of industrial materials and fluorescent lighting. As we step into the metaverse, with the ruins of social media and cryptocurrency all around us, it makes sense that designers should feel some nostalgia for a simpler digital age, no matter how recent.

“Architects are always looking for the fashionable style of the day,” says Pritzker Prize laureate Shigeru Ban, referring to another obsession of our time—mass timber. In “The Wizard of Wood” (p. 86) he seems to urge us to find some higher creative purpose in our pursuit of the latest building technology, some ideal that lies beyond calculations of carbon emissions and a desire to soothe our climate anxiety. He strives for structural integrity and ingenuity. What do the designers of other mass timber buildings aspire to?

Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello (“Salt of the Earth,” p. 94) raise similar questions about the purpose of technology with their work. As founders of the California-based firm Rael San Fratello, they have had a polymorphic, much-feted career in which they have been characterized either as tech wunderkinds (because of their extensive explorations with 3D-printing objects and buildings) or as activists thanks to their long engagement with communities migrating across the United States–Mexico border.

But what’s truly remarkable about them is that they don’t see building technologies and border politics as mutually exclusive. Consider this: They spent years 3D-printing using humble materials until they were recently able to digitally fabricate beautiful earthen buildings that bear unmistakable connections to Indigenous craft and architecture. Their projects show influences of both ancient Pueblo culture and later Indo-Hispanic traditions, which span the presentday border between Mexico and the southwestern United States.

There’s a lesson in their work: If architects and designers fully accept their responsibility in shaping the world, then it isn’t enough to deploy new building technologies because they’re available, affordable, or expedient. We cannot compromise on the expressive, creative qualities of architecture and design, because it is in those expressions that we hold the power to shift culture and advance civilization. Cheap 3D printing and carbon-efficient mass timber buildings will remain a mere bandage on the wounds of inequity and environmental degradation, unless they’re delivered using a new design language that moves societal attitudes and preferences away from exploitation and oppression, and toward symbiosis and harmony.

This worldview is also exemplified by the winners of Metropolis’s second annual Responsible Disruptors program (“Conscious Innovation,” p. 106). The theme of migration in Rael San Fratello’s work echoes in Distance Unknown, a project by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Civic Data Design Lab, involving an unprecedented collaboration with Central American migrants to visualize their reality in an exhibition, website, and installation. Mass

timber is used as a tool for disruption in DLR Group’s prototype hospitality building to shake up a sector not particularly known for thinking beyond profit margins. Both projects aspire to change mindsets—with some success. Distance Unknown has influenced the draft of a U.S. immigration bill and proved a catalyst for new kinds of conversations between diplomats at the United Nations.

With such exemplars before us, let’s relegate our fetish for world-saving technologies to nostalgia. New software, materials, and construction methodologies are the means to express our convictions. By changing minds and not merely methods, we can build a more just and harmonious world.


Metropolis is committed to assessing and reducing its carbon emissions, with the goal of attaining carbon neutrality.

Our first step is a yearlong partnership with Keilhauer to offset all estimated carbon emissions for the printing and distribution of every print copy

of Metropolis in 2023 with verified carbon credits, including the one you hold in your hands. We are inspired by Keilhauer’s leadership in sustainability, the company’s work towards Closed Loop Manufacturing, and the commitments of the Planet Keilhauer program.

Rajagopal, editor in chief More than 11 miles of glue-laminated timber were used to construct the roof structure of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, designed by Shigeru Ban. The Japanese architect is renowned for structural innovation with wood.


Slender yet durable, the VLA26 Vega Chair was originally created for Copenhagen’s historic concert hall, Vega. Many decades after its debut, Carl Hansen & Søn proudly launches Vilhelm Lauritzen’s functionalist masterpiece with meticulous attention to craftsmanship and detail.

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VLA26 Vega Chair by Vilhelm Lauritzen 1956


Through an online experiment with the panelists, IA’s designers proved it’s hard to find distinctive references on social media platforms that reinforce visual homogeneity.

Resisting Social Media Sameness

A Think Tank panel guides designers through strategies to break the algorithm.

Most designers consider social media—especially Instagram and Pinterest—a crucial part of their research and marketing efforts. But what if social media and its algorithms create sameness in design, inspiring the same aesthetics in Berkeley and Bangkok?

A Think Tank conversation on September 29, hosted by IA Interior Architects and moderated by Metropolis editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal, sought to address ways designers can leverage social media to break through to new audiences and boost social equity.

“Use social media as a tool,” implored Alexandria Davis,

designer at the host firm. “Let it be a supporting actor, not the lead.” Her colleague, design director John Capobianco, reminded the audience: “Listening is the most undervalued skill in the profession. If we can’t listen, then we can’t understand.”

Suzanne Tick, founder of Tick Studio, summed it up neatly: To succeed both online and in the real world, “be more physical and human and less digital.” Getting back in touch with human sentiments is good for variety and diversity in spaces, and for healthier design practices overall. —James


Healing Begins with Listening

Exploring design empathy in health-care spaces

In designing spaces for health care, nothing is more important than empathy. That was the premise of the Think Tank panel Rajagopal moderated on October 6.

“Empathetic design is all about listening and engaging,” said Christina Yates, senior associate and lead interior designer at host firm NBBJ. Her colleague Jonathan Ward, partner and firm-wide design leader, concurred, adding: “It’s about listening and collecting everybody together, collecting ideas, and finding the best solutions through that process.”

Empathy is key to achieving equity in the design of health-care spaces as well, pointed out Angelita Scott, director and community concept lead at the International WELL Building Institute, and one of the minds behind the new WELL Equity rating. She cited the sobering statistic that Black women see rates of maternal mortality—those deaths related to pregnancy or childbirth—almost three times higher compared with their white counterparts.

Acknowledging that racial disparities in the healthcare system are a reality “is really key to creating equitable health-care spaces,” she concluded. —J.M.

Reinventing Design Practice

The experts weigh in on what to do about interior design’s massive waste problem.

We’ve all seen it: A company will occupy an office for a scant five years and then decide to relocate. In the process virtually all the furniture and fittings of the existing space are trashed, and brand-new ones bought for the Taj Mahal that clients are about to move into. What a waste!

On October 13, Rajagopal moderated a Think Tank discussion titled “Reinventing Design Practice,” hosted by Studio O+A in San Francisco, that called on designers to rethink this shameful model.

“Furniture is thrown out with the baby and the bathwater, and along with everything else goes into the landfill. We need to change that quickly,” said Studio O+A cofounder Verda Alexander. “We need to take risks. We need to be willing to get uncomfortable.”

Kriss Kokoefer, president of Kay Chesterfield Inc., a contract furniture reupholstery company specializing in refitting and reusing office furniture, posited that even simple changes can have a big impact.

“Reupholstering is actually a really fun and creative way to be sustainable. There’s a long-term goal of keeping really well-made furniture that can last many lifetimes.” —J.M.

To combat waste in the commercial interiors industry, designers have to get creative with new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle products and materials. Above: O+A’s design for the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California. NBBJ’s design for the Ohana Campus in Monterey, California. More and more health-care designers are embracing green space as a design strategy to reduce stress and improve patient outcomes.
The Think Tank discussions were held on September 29, October 6, and October 13. The conversations were presented in partnership with Garden on the Wall, GROHE, Mannington Commercial, Ultrafabrics, and Versteel.

What makes an architecture and design practice unique? How do firms and offices develop areas of expertise, deep insights, and passion projects? Metropolis editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal sat down with 20 firms in 2022, speaking to practitioners about what distinguishes their work. Here are nine architecture and design leaders on what gives them their edge.

Scan to watch the Leading Edge videos on DESIGNTV by SANDOW

Designing Hospitality Spaces That Transport Us

What does it take to design hotels and restaurants that operate seamlessly and are also endlessly inspiring? Every project New York–based GOODRICH creates utilizes the firm’s four Design Foundation pillars: Historic, Familiar, Aspirational, and Muse.

“We strive to make each project a completely unique experience rather than approaching the design from our own style or aesthetic point of view. We work to discover the ideal expression of a project—and that requires a lot of research into the site or the building or, more broadly, the neighborhood, city, or country the project is in.

One of the reasons you sense depth in our final designs is that we immerse ourselves as much as possible in all the different contexts of a space. We read novels, learn history, and walk the neighborhood to find these different stories. Then when we build that research into a place, we end up with a design that has multiple layers for guests to discover.

It’s very tempting to say, “What’s the design culture here and how do we reflect that back to the place?” We work hard to do our research more laterally so that we’re learning about a movement, time period, or layer of recent history that may be lost to contemporary eyes and minds. Then we consider how to bring the different things we’ve discovered through research together to create a design language that will both make the project unique and rich, but also will bring forward stories or histories that even locals might not be familiar with.

For every project we do, we have a Design Foundation comprising four different pillars. We have a Historic pillar that’s related to the history of the site or the location. We have a Familiar pillar, which is a cultural component, something that our guests might know from literature, cinema, or pop culture. We have an

Aspirational pillar, which is often heavily guided by what the owner, operator, or client hopes to create. And then we have a Muse for every project, which is a slightly discordant or contrasting point of view. For each project, these four categories are always the same, but we find unique inspiration that drives each one.

The most important thing is that guests feel as though they cross a threshold when they enter into one of our spaces. And while I would love it if they would immediately start

to see the thought and research that went into creating the design, the way our team thinks about it is that it doesn’t matter why they have the feeling. And, in fact, it’s much more powerful if guests’ awareness simply shifts and they think, “I’ve arrived at someplace special and different.” We’re successful when guests are transported—and then we hope they have some curiosity about what it was that made them feel that way. –Matthew Goodrich, founder and principal, GOODRICH

UBS Arena at Belmont Park, Elmont, NY

Prioritizing People and Community in Spacemaking

International architecture, interiors, and masterplanning studio Woods Bagot has been delivering design solutions alongside clients, communities, and other creatives for over 150 years. Their dedication to progressive thinking and innovation results in outcomes that inspire users and break new ground. With 17 studios across six regions, their global reach and unique multidisciplinary approach allow Woods Bagot to create human-centric design that resonates with what’s going on in the world today while anticipating the needs of tomorrow.

“Woods Bagot’s ambition is to create a truly global business framework. What we mean by global is different than what a lot of people think. We are made up of an international collective of over a thousand people in 17 studios with many cultures, and many languages, but at the core of our model is the thesis of our Global Studio. It’s not about a founder per se, it’s about a foundation—and human-centric design drives us.

Today, we believe that architecture is in a position of crisis; it needs to recreate a whole new identity focused on ethics and people. Our industry can’t keep doing what it’s done up to now: just assume that if we build brickand-mortar spaces, people will continue to clumsily occupy them. Woods Bagot’s global footprint allows us to create hybridized sectors and really analyze how humans use space from the inside out and then back inside again. We deliver a diverse range of work around the construct of total design, an iterative and multidisciplinary approach to user-centric design. We have architects, interior designers, urbanists, anthropologists, change managers, and consultants all trying to move beyond conventional approaches to architecture to bring new, multifaceted thinking to problemsolving. We’re identifying issues and then looking at them through non-traditional lenses, not always architectural and built environment ones. About 10% of our people are non-practicing architects—and it makes us

very proud that they can not only contribute but also challenge, provoke, and encourage us to always do great work.

One of the interesting things about the last couple of years is that people now have more freedom and choice; they don’t have to come into the work every day and they can pick up and move to other cities. This has created a condition where our clients have had to go back to basic principles about the value proposition of what we’re doing. What’s going to attract people to come to this building or office space, or to buy in a particular residential building? We keep pushing to find the best solutions that answer the needs of today while predicting those of the future to create something new.

The diversity and richness of our work is critical to our portfolio. We never have two projects that look the same. That’s why our design aesthetic, in a way, is amorphous. This creates a condition where anything is possible–something that we as thinkers and designers all really enjoy.” —Nik Karalis, CEO; David Brown, principal and regional design leader for North America; and Krista Ninivaggi, principal and interior design leader, Woods Bagot

Over/Under Kiosks, New York, Courtesy Woods Bagot

Designing Gardens as Places for Living

Can a garden be more than a pretty place to stroll through? Can it restore our relationship with nature? Los Angeles–based landscape design firm Viola Gardens uses an approach called permaculture to influence how people and their gardens grow together.

“Most people think of a garden as something outside of themselves. When we’re designing, we’re looking for ways to help people find a part of themselves in the landscape. I work with people to understand who they are so we can optimize their engagement with creative solutions because a garden is a place for living, not a place for looking at.

Whether you’re experiencing fruit blossom into something that nourishes you or watching the birds and butterflies—witnessing the relationship that our garden has with the bigger world around us is magical. Permaculture is a design system based on these relationships in nature. For example, as landscape designers, we use a diversity of plant species that are curated, and hopefully artistic and inspiring.

But we also use a diversity of plant species because diversity fosters balance. If you plant all of one thing in a landscape, you create the conditions for fungus or other types of disease. We think of a plant as something that, yes, we experience or something that creates beauty, but at the same time is in relationship with a whole host of other species that keep the system in balance.

I use permaculture as a designer and a contractor and a builder, but equally it can be used in our legal and education systems. The more I’ve come to understand these principles and embody them, the more it’s illuminated my life, strengthened my relationships, and informed how I’ve built my business.” –Jessica

Advancing the Culture of Architecture

Known for fusing radical technology and dramatic use of natural materials, Enter Projects Asia emphasizes sustainability and tactility in its projects. Advocating for a connection with the arts and crafts community, the firm seeks to keep the trades alive through its modern approach to back-to-basics design.

“Eco chic is the new luxury. People want tactility; they want nature. They want all those things that we have available to us in Southeast Asia. Knowing where things are from is the new design currency. It’s incredibly important as designers to know where things are from and make alliances with communities—to go a little bit further than ordering from a catalog or online.

Originally, architects or designers, when they were designing cathedrals, would talk to the brick mason, the astrologer, the astronomer, and the engineer, and run a more vertical

infrastructure. Now, we tend to subcontract a little bit too much. I think the whole industry needs to become more vertical, meaning that designers need to get involved more in the grassroots. While we’re the designers, we’re also working intimately with the fabricators, working with on-site deployment, and in some cases even shipping and making componentry.

We are known for our work with rattan and natural materials but also our digital fabrication methods—right now, we’re working on a new thing, 3D printed coral for a resort in Malaysia.


It’s about educating people and coming up with alternatives that enliven the arts and crafts industries. In Southeast Asia, we’re fortunate that those industries are alive and well, when in other places they might not be.

Our projects are keeping the trades alive and preventing the biggest competition to us, which is the threat and the importation of cheap, inferior plastic products. These products have consumed the design industry, and it’s time to go back to basics.” –Patrick Keane, director, Enter

Viola, founder, Viola Gardens
Viola Gardens Design Studio, Los Angeles
Spice and Barley; Bangkok, Thailand

Breathing New Life into Old Spaces

Just a year after its start, npz studio+ began on a 2-millionsquare-foot project, Bell Works, a reimagination of Bell Labs in New Jersey. Specializing in interior design and creating experiences, the firm continues the legacy of the historic building with nods to the past but reactivates the space with flexible design and events.

“Bell Works is the reimagination of the former Bell Labs laboratories designed by Eero Saarinen. It was a process. I started with the café to bring life into the building. My mindset is very global, and I thought about the coolest markets in the world that are always bustling. I gave it a very simple look with string lights, and it worked. People started coming into the building, sitting on the couch, bringing their laptop, and enjoying the space. Then I started designing the offices, and one thing led to another, and an anchor tenant came in. It’s been a nice process, layering and giving a space life little by little.

Working with developer Inspired by Somerset Development, my company npz studio+ started as the interior design firm on the project but then my role organically evolved into the Lead Designer and Creative Director because, for me, it’s all about the brand—the design, the events, the space, and the social media. I also know that energy comes with people. You can have a beautiful space and design, but the people are what complete the space. We have live entertainment, farmers markets, wellness events... simple things like that bring energy and, as a

result, cultivate a community. When everything is connected to the five senses, that’s when people enjoy and feel connected to a space. I do a lot of research on a building’s history. It’s important for me to investigate what happened there, and then think of the innovations of today. When I started on Bell Works, I noticed the building was designed for collaboration. Saarinen was a forward thinker. The hallways were designed for you to have serendipitous encounters with your neighbors, which made me realize that I needed to create offices that felt good and gave people that community feel, that sense of belonging. It’s very important to keep that legacy, to connect everything to the past and then take it to the future.

I see how people appreciate the design of Bell Works. If you walk in on any given day, there are people just walking around with strollers, friends meeting for a glass of rosé, yogis heading out after their class, or colleagues meeting for a coffee. We are open to everybody because—dogs, people, art— those things give life to the building in a simple but beautiful way.” –Paola Zamudio, founder and head

Bell Works, New Jersey

Creating Environments That Speak

ZEBRADOG specializes in designing signature stories into built environments. Experiencebuilding experts, they tap into emotions and engage all senses to create environments that hold our attention and build brand loyalty in a world of digital noise.

“Today we’re living and working in an Experience Economy. Over the past two centuries, our world has transitioned from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy, to a goods and services economy—and now our services are simply props on the experiential stage. In the experience economy, we must deliver our services as theatrical experiences to deepen an emotional connection to our customers.

ZEBRADOG is deeply engaged in the physical design and delivery of stories in built environments. As a Certified Experience Economy Expert (CEEE), I’m working to identify and share with our clients what it means to go beyond delivering a professional service to delivering an experience. We define an

experience as a memorable event that engages each individual in an inherently personal way. We help people create memories that attach themselves to a brand promise.

Daily digital chaos measures success through views of seconds spent and click-through engagement. Time well spent is part of our success measure equation. We focus on the time we have you as an audience and use time as a currency. We want you to touch things. We want you to be engaged. The more we can engage all the senses, the more successful we’re going to be in delivering time well spent.

Current data suggests that Americans spend 87 percent of their lives indoors. There is an enormous responsibility in designing the

experiences people have in that time. In making places “matter”. Time is our least renewable resource. We have little of it to share and when we do choose to spend our time somewhere it’s because we trust the environment and people within it. We help build trust in the stories we design.

The more time you spend absorbing a real story, the deeper your emotional connection will be to creating a real memory in that place. We want you to linger, put your phone down and simply be in a place, participating in a designed experience connecting to the people and the stories they’re telling. We don’t necessarily remember the places we go but we do remember the memories made ther e. We conspire arm-in-arm with the architect, interior designer, and owner to bring passion to the built environment, to give their place a voice.”

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University; Raleigh, NC
Livsreise (leaves-rice-ah) “Life’s Journey” Norwegian Story Center; Stoughton, WI

Building to Foster Human Connection

Atlanta-based TVS makes a big impact designing buildings to support the future of our cities. Each year, more than 240 million people interact with the firm’s work, which includes large-scale public assembly buildings like its renovation of the Javits Center in New York.

“TVS is a unique firm down in Atlanta, Georgia, with a unique specialty: we do large, complex and bespoke buildings all over the world. We’ve done the four largest convention centers in North America, the largest in India, the largest in Central America, and four of the five largest in China. We make a massive impact from a small footprint.

Having this influence through big public assembly buildings where people graduate from high school, get engaged, go see a concert, or go learn something, is what drives what we do. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s what attracts people to come and work with us.

Designing the Javits Center expansion in New York, for example, was a dream. It’s originally an I. M. Pei design, an iconic building in the industry, so we were very motivated to create a dialog between the building and the expansion,

to make them complement each other.

The expansion was on the forefront of a lot of trends in the industry, taking a building that was primarily a trade show and exhibition center, and adding flexibility with small spaces, big spaces, meeting rooms, and banquet halls where people could meet formally or informally. It’s also designed as a place for gathering in the event of an emergency. Its independence from the grid allows the building to be a hospital or a vaccination center like it was during COVID.

The green roof on this project is not only something to look at but something productive: it’s a farm and a habitat to dozens of bird, bat, and insect species. As an architect, you try to minimize the impact your building has, but something that improves the ecosystem is a really interesting innovation. The intersection of sustainability and design is intriguing. You don’t want to create a building

that has all the sustainability bells and whistles but that everybody hates. Then they just want to tear it down. That’s how the approach to sustainable design has matured. Javits is a great example of how you make a building that is exceptional from a design and functional point of view, but also from a sustainability point of view.

Javits is so many things to so many people. But buildings like this are gathering places first and foremost, and for people with many different motivations, whether it’s to do business, find political consensus, or to have a drink with a view of the river at night. Ultimately, it’s about coming together. The more that our day-to-day life is remote, the more essential it is to be face-to-face, hug somebody, shake someone’s hand, learn something new, and be inspired. And that’s what these buildings do.”–Robert Svedberg, FAIA, principal, TVS

Javits Convention Center Expansion, New York

Leveraging Research to Push Design Boundaries

Can design be a way of understanding people and spaces better? Multidisciplinary building design firm Cushing Terrell uses continuous research to create offices, schools, hospitals, and homes that exemplify what is possible through design.

“We have a design philosophy of ‘where design meets you,’ which means we’re always focused on the end user. As a firm, we apply this within all the markets and disciplines that we work, looking at how people are impacted by things like lighting, air, materials, and space when they all are combined. When we take this holistic approach is when we really elevate design. We like to say that our design process begins and ends with research. At the beginning, we might start with an informal charrette

session. We also partner with universities. For example, we’re currently partnering with the University of Texas to establish some tangible metrics within the unique intersection of design and psychology. Vibe Maps, which are also one of the first steps in our process, absolutely start with research. We look at the site daylighting, views to nature, the core location, and circulation. Then we analyze and identify—based on building features, geometries, and elements— buzzy and focus zones within a space.


But one of the most informative tools that we have in place is our post-occupancy evaluation process, which helps us gain actual data about the way that spaces we designed are being used and how they perform. These evaluations give our teams a wealth of knowledge that not only helps that client, but the next client. It gives us a bank of research and knowledge that we can leverage on any project going forward.” –Sandi Rudy, associate and director of interior design, Cushing Terrell

Putting People at the Heart of Sustainability

What makes a super sustainable building feel like home?

River Architects PLLC creates poetic, comfortable spaces that are also at the forefront of energy efficient and climate sensitive design.

“We’re innate problem solvers. And one of the urgent problems, of course, is climate change. Sustainability is critical to us, and we’ve got to create architecture that’s appropriate for the time.

We’re always working to address the needs of the clients. We want people to love the buildings they’re in. We have a very collaborative approach and believe that sometimes even a misunderstanding can lead to a great idea.

We make sure that people remain at the core of our thinking around sustainability. The technology that brings about passive house is sort of the back of house production that people don’t need to see but the result is compelling architecture. We use sustainability as a design tool to solve problems for people. It’s all about the people and the planet.” –Juhee Lee-Hartford, managing principal, and James Hartford, principal, River Architects

Gallatin High School, Bozeman, MT
Rockquist Minor; Garrison, NY

At All Scales

Built on the site of a former gas station, Seattle’s Mini Mart City Park, by artist collaborative SuttonBeresCuller, now hosts events for arts, culture, and environmental education—a sharp contrast to its toxic legacy as a piece of fossil fuel infrastructure.

An essential survey of architecture and design today

REUSE Creative Refueling

In Washington State as elsewhere, the relationship between cars and infrastructure is changing fast. The state is set to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, and the question of what to do with gas stations—many of which are already disused—is increasingly pressing, not least because of the ground contamination often underfoot. In Seattle, an inventive, art-centric solution has emerged in Mini Mart City Park, a community-focused cultural center and 3,000-squarefoot public park that recently opened on the site of an abandoned gas station.

The brainchild of local artist collaborative SuttonBeresCuller—co-led by John Sutton, Ben Beres, and Zac Culler—Mini Mart City Park is the culmination of a decades-long journey, as the group first set out to activate a vacant building with their interactive, site-specific work in 2005. The trio set their sights on a 1920s-era fueling station in the city’s south end and worked with local firm GO′C to devise plans for a new facility after discovering that the existing structure was unsalvageable. “There was a naive optimism on our part about what it would take to remediate the site,” recalls Culler. “But we jumped in with both feet.”

“We knew from the beginning that ongoing remediation of the site was going to be a large part of the project,” says Jon Gentry of GO′C, who along with GO′C founding co-partner Aimée O’Carroll carried out the design. It is a nod to the familiar filling-station aesthetic of years past. Finding typical site cleanup technologies cost-prohibitive, the group worked with environmental cosulting firm G-Logics to integrate an air-sparge and soil vaporextraction system into the building’s design to clean the contaminated soil and groundwater over time.

While attending art exhibits, performances, and environmentally focused community events hosted at the park, visitors can view the air-sparge system mechanics, which use pressurized air to volatilize hydrocarbons and can remove over 200 pounds of petroleum from the soil annually. The artists hope that other communities in Washington and beyond will create their own Mini Mart City Parks. “We’ve always talked about this as a franchisable idea,” says Culler. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to activate all these derelict sites and help restore the landscape in the process?”

Mini Mart City Park in Seattle, Washington, occupies the polluted site of a former gas station. The cultural venue, designed by local firm GO′C, is an homage to the typology of 20thcentury filling stations rendered in simple, affordable materials.
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BOOK Impaired Monuments

The issue of accessibility dominates any conversation about disability and architecture. David Gissen, a disabled designer, historian, and professor at Parsons School of Design, writes in his new book The Architecture of Disability, “Many contemporary explorations of architecture and disability focus almost exclusively on the pursuit of access: how it is achieved and how people with disabilities can be better accommodated.” Yet, Gissen notes, these “accessible” design strategies are “ultimately belittling of disabled people like me.” Why is successful accessible design so rare, and more importantly, how can architects and designers better accommodate the wide range of human ability?

Take, for example, the elevator system at the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that remained largely inaccessible until 2004—when Athens hosted the Olympic Games and modified construction elevators were installed on the citadel’s north face. In 2019, however, the elevators faced mechanical issues, forcing the parents of children in wheelchairs to carry both the children and chairs all the way up to the summit. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the Acropolis Restoration Service completed plans to make the elevators a permanent fixture. Just looking at the steep incline, it appears almost as if folks with mobility impairments

simply never visited the Acropolis. But this isn’t true. Gissen points out that ancient Athenians would have ascended to the Parthenon and other buildings via a series of ramps (which were destroyed in the first century CE), supporting an argument that the site might have actually been more accessible to disabled visitors in the past than in its present-day condition.

From the Acropolis to the American wilderness, Gissen dives into the artificial character of historic sites and landscapes, asking questions such as, Is nature innately inaccessible? Does accessible design contradict the authenticity of historical preservation? Do all people have an equal right to the city? Along the way he argues that “disability activism has the capacity to uncover and foster a deeper and more complex history beyond the problems of access to space itself.”

By recontextualizing the histories, theories, and practices of architecture through the lens of disability justice, Gissen places impairment at the heart of the built environment—rather than addressing access as an afterthought. “I want to foster practices in my discipline that emerge through impairments, not despite or as an accommodation to them,” Gissen writes, adding “The goal for disabled people is not just to enter practice but to change it.”

Clockwise: Detail of a tree support; an illustration from a book by architect Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc illustrates the human body being abstracted into a structural form; surviving fragments of the Acropolis ramp from the fifth century BCE.


Futuristic Formwork

Computational design and 3D-printing technology can make prefabricated concrete units more efficient to produce, but there’s a catch—all the wasted material used to make molds to shape concrete as it cures. Researchers at Gramazio Kohler Research, a program of the architecture department at Swiss university ETH Zurich, have found a possible solution with an extremely thin, 3D-printed form that can be fully recycled to create future forms.

Their demonstration project, called the Eggshell Pavilion, is a system of four columns and four ribbed slabs that can be disassembled, transported, and reassembled as needed. The pavilion’s design relies on computational algorithms that generate the architecture’s geometry in congruence with the fabrication data for the form’s 3D-printing process.

The design is then translated into a wafer-thin 3D-printed formwork of fiberglass-reinforced PET-G that is partially recycled from previous forms (three millimeters for the columns and five for the slab). “The difference between new and reused plastic is barely visible on the formworks. Such discoveries showcase how innovation can be successful in making building processes more sustainable,” wrote Guillaume Jami, a research assistant at ETH Zurich, and Joris Burger, a PhD researcher at Gramazio Kohler Research, in a joint statement. Traditional steel reinforcements are then placed inside the form before concrete is poured. The columns are made with a digitally controlled casting system that uses fast-setting concrete, while slabs are done in the traditional manner. Once the concrete is set, the form is cut off, ground into pellets, and put back into the 3D printer’s hopper to create the next set of molds.

While initial concepts are generated through sketching and traditional ideation, this digital solution, in conjunction with robotic fabrication, can produce concrete elements more efficiently than traditional formwork processes that are more labor-intensive and less cost-effective while generating more waste. “Computational design allows us to continuously evaluate our designs for their feasibility. This constant feedback helps us develop designs that could also be realized within [a shorter] time frame,” the pair explains.

Researchers at ETH Zurich developed the Eggshell Pavilion to demonstrate a 3D-printed mold for casting cement that can be recycled into future molds.

HEALTH CARE Narrative Form

You have to study the past if you want to define the future. And before completing an award-winning $14 million integrated care clinic last year for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Bremerton, Washington–based architecture firm Rice Fergus Miller (RFM) cultivated a 20-year history of working with the tribe’s leaders, including on the design of their resort and casino.

The tribe’s new Jamestown Healing Clinic in the city of Sequim, in the shadow of Olympic National Park, was a project with higher stakes. The 17,500-square-foot clinic treats members of the surrounding community for opioid use disorders, in addition to providing primary care, dental, and behavioral health services.

Before design began in 2019, RFM held meetings with tribal officials and the facility’s medical staff. That way, multiple perspectives guided conversations. “We looked at it from the patient point of view and kind of put ourselves in those shoes, in terms of what their experience had been in the past and dealing with their substance use disorder and how a building like this could positively impact their recovery,” explains Gena Lee, an interior designer for the firm.

Meanwhile, like other Pacific Northwest Indigenous tribes, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe takes steps to balance its history and traditions with both opportunities and challenges of the surrounding society. The clinic’s services and design were also subject to that approach.

The tribe and firm turned to tribal elder Elaine Grinnell for guidance. “She’s kind of the keeper of all of their traditional stories,” Lee says. “She started telling stories that she had learned over her lifetime.” Two narratives in particular influenced the design: One

told of how removing a stone from a stream can change its course. The other was about a journey during which a canoe was lost in the fog, and the people onshore sang a traditional song that helped guide it back to shore.

The new building expresses that spirit of a community coming together to guide those in need. The stories are manifested in curvilinear pathways that emulate the nearby Dungeness River, where headwaters flow from the flank of 7,639-foot Mount Mystery, a sacred area for the tribe.

The massing is informed by the tribe’s traditional low, long dwellings made of Western red cedar, which was also used for siding and support columns along the building’s facade. Freshly cut cedar’s natural burnt sienna hue is also an accent color throughout. Like a theater’s marquee, a five-foot-tall carving (created by Bud Turner, the tribe’s lead carver) dominates the entry.

For RFM associate principal Blake Webber, “we saw it as a strong analogy for the power of one positive interaction in someone’s journey for recovery.” —Craig Sailor

The Jamestown Healing Clinic by Rice Fergus Miller features design that honors the tribe in Washington State who commissioned it, from carvings and colors inside (right) to the massing and cedar columns of the exterior (below).

Handmade in England


The building at 550 Madison Avenue (née the AT&T Building and more recently Sony Plaza) is among the more recognizable figures on New York’s skyline. Designed by architect and provocateur Philip Johnson, the 37-story skyscraper stands out thanks to its curious headgear: a classical pediment broken by a circular notch, inviting comparisons to the top of a Chippendale grandfather clock. The design was shocking when it debuted in 1979, the year Johnson appeared on the cover of Time magazine holding a model of the project, then four years from completion. It heralded the arrival of something new in American architecture: the fading of Modernism and the onset of the Postmodernist wave.

But that was then. “The building had many components changed over time,” says Craig Dykers, founding partner at the New York office of Norway- and U.S.based firm Snøhetta. “It kind of took away the original concept.” After the name changes, assorted corporate tenants, extensive interior renovations, and transformation of the street-level portico and rear-facing arcade— the erstwhile AT&T faded into the history books. Now, following its acquisition by development company Olayan Group in 2016, the building is poised for urban transformation once more.

After the Olayan takeover, Snøhetta unveiled an initial design—one with the lower trunk of the high-rise wrapped in a glass sheath—that had the opposite effect of the Time cover. Dykers’s team hashed out a revised plan with a dramatic ground-level entryway and an impressive grouping of meeting rooms, eateries, and private lounges on the second floor. There are new windows on the west-facing front and a newly cut opening at the rear of the lobby—yet the true focus of Snøhetta’s efforts is not in the building but behind it, in the north-south corridor connecting 55th and 56th Streets.

A common feature in midtown, privately owned public spaces (POPS) are mini parks constructed and operated by building management in exchange for a tax benefit. Some POPS are better than others—and Johnson’s was among the latter: a dismal corporate alleyway, lined with underused shops on one side and usually vacant chairs on the other.

Under a new glass canopy, the reconfigured gallery turns the gloomy non-place into a landscaped indooroutdoor garden, featuring native plantings, water features, ample seating, and even a “steam pit,” a circular rock-covered dais that emits heated vapor in winter and makes the space a true year-round attraction. In retreating from its original concept, Snøhetta has succeeded in doing something greater than giving one historic building a refresh; it has provided a promising model for putting the public back into POPS.

Alongside Gensler and Rockwell Group, which helped fashion the sleek new interiors, Snøhetta has transformed Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building into a more pedestrianfriendly respite for midtown Manhattan.

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SURFACES Pattern Play

The conventional stone mosaic gets a refreshing update in Sfera, a collection by New York–based designer Alison Rose, which can be specified for walls and floors including wet zones such as showers. Circular waterjetcut quartz layered with disks of Carrara, Calacatta, and Nero marble seems arranged randomly, but actually forms repeating triplets of stone in mixed finishes—a hallmark of Rose’s previous Bauhaus-inspired mosaic for Artistic Tile. This time, her geometric pattern play (available in Grafite, Lilac, and Verde colorways) was inspired by biological cell movement. Perhaps that’s one reason why visually the orbs appear to bounce across the surface with a life of their own.

Wood Wins

Geometry enlivens traditional wood paneling in new mosaic-style versions from one family-owned U.S. manufacturer. Hex Wood Mosaic wall panels are among the latest styles The Wood Veneer Hub has engineered to lend interest to both exterior and interior walls. Available in boxes of ten tile-like units, the panels measure roughly 12.5 by 11 inches, are

made from hemlock and Douglas fir, and are thermally modified at a super-high kiln temperature instead of being chemically treated to resist insects, moisture, and rot. The manufacturer also recycles its sawdust and wood scraps from the production process. —K.B.

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SOURCED Craft and Context

New Rochelle, New York–based L. Bonime Design emphasizes handmade and local materials for spaces that best articulate clients’ brand identities.

Lindsey Bonime

The firm’s founder and creative director has an MArch from Tulane University, which informs her material choices in such projects as the recently completed Twelve restaurant in Portland, Maine. “I draw on my background in architecture to create warm minimalist interiors with a livable yet sophisticated sensibility,” Bonime says.

01 Hold sconce

“This sconce’s organic shape is reminiscent of a mermaid’s purse [the casing that protects a shark’s embryo] that can be found in waters off Portland’s coast.”

02 Wall tiles

“Deep cerulean blue for a backsplash draws your eyes toward the action in an open kitchen.”

03 Murmuration ceramic sculpture

“This ceramic wall mural provides a minimalist yet ever-changing textural focus in a main dining space.”

04 End-grain flooring

“The texture and ceruse finish result in a pattern that contrasts well with [adjacent] wide-plank oak flooring, to help define the bar and main dining area in an otherwise open space.”

05 Counter stool

“This local furniture company’s philosophy of using simple, native, high-quality materials aligned with our intent to lean into a quintessentially Maine aesthetic in Twelve.”

06 Jenny wall sconce

“This playful sconce provides a sculptural element and soft, indirect light inside a simple, dark, and moody water closet.”

07 Custom professional range

01 02 03 05 04 06 07 METROPOLIS 44 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023

Sophisticatedly simple, yet dramatic; tasteful, yet sublime, Craft Wallcovering offers handmade surface art for your walls.




Even with its plant-based chemistry, making linoleum generates a carbon footprint. To shrink that, Tarkett has focused on reducing the emissions associated with extracting raw materials and transporting the finished product. That effort, along with the innovative use of natural dyes, earned its latest linoleum product, LinoFloor xf2, Metropolis ’s 2022 Planet Positive Award. Here’s what it means for users.


The chief appeal is its entirely biodegradable formula of linseed oil, pine rosin, wood and cork flour, calcium carbonate, and jute.


Tarkett has tweaked the recipe to source recycled content for roughly 36 percent of the raw ingredients.



VOCs for LinoFloor xf2 are 100 times lower than the industry standard for linoleum.



This certification guarantees that the product is free from carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxicants—and is linked to offsets for 5 percent of any on-site emissions.



This label means the flooring is third-party tested for healthy indoor air quality and certified by SCS Global.




With its ReStart take-back program Tarkett has collected more than 112,000 tons of flooring over roughly a decade, easing the process of recycling for users and diverting waste from landfills.



The product meets Health Care Without Harm Silver requirements.

Linoleum has always been a biobased product. Now Tarkett has cut the material’s carbon and VOC emissions, making it a better flooring choice than ever before.

Explore Metropolis's Design for Equity Primer, a guide to all existing resources to improve equity in the process and outcomes of architecture and interior design.

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Product debuts at this year’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show suggest that a minimalist, hotellike residential style is here to stay.

Decades of decluttering and advice from decor magazines have led to a popular residential style that’s more hotel room than home. A review of product introductions (including some from this year’s Kitchen and Bath Industry trade show in Las Vegas) signals that won’t change soon, despite a few scattered experiments in maximalist baroque styles. The resilient minimalist aesthetic is evident in the number of compact, pared-down, low-profile, and nearly invisible offerings afoot. Meanwhile, designers are relying on bold, rich finishes to perform the heavy lifting of adding drama in the absence of fussy decorations. A case in point is Duravit’s new Zencha bath collection, which includes dark and muted wood vanities and beautifully simple sink basins and tubs. The busiest rooms in the house are doing more with less.

A German manufacturer-designer partnership produced this Japanese-influenced family of vanities, washbasins, mirrors, and tubs. Duravit’s collaboration with Sebastian Herkner includes softly rectangular soaking tubs, available in 63-by-34-inch and 70-by-36-inch profiles, inspired by Japanese bathing and tea culture. DURAVIT



Continuing to improve the design of its original 1996 drawer-style dishwasher, Fisher & Paykel has rolled out a version that’s more discreet, with a low decibel rating of 43 dBA and optional custom door panels for sleeker integration with cabinets.



03 BLUESTAR 36-INCH FRENCH DOOR offer an affordable, custom, professionalkitchen look in standard 36-inch counter-depth refrigerators, Pennsylvaniabased BlueStar is rolling out a palette of more than 1,000 colors and ten trim options.
02 03 04 05 02 ELMWOOD CABINETRY “Dramatic, deep colors” is how cabinetmaker Elmwood describes some of its latest crowd-pleasing hues; all were developed based on a survey of 100 dealers and designers. 04 SPECIALTY FINISHES Linear-drain manufacturer Infinity Drain is rolling out five new on-trend finishes to expand design flexibility for its sleek drain profiles. INFINITY DRAIN 05 SERIES 11 DISHDRAWER

Designed as a system, RainStick integrates a tiltable showerhead, foot spout, hand shower, controller, and reservoir in one slim vertical towerlike unit that can be operated with an app.

Exclusive to Atlas Homewares Stainless collection, new Matte Gold and Matte Rose Gold finishes extend options for designers specifying its 85 sleek, geometric cabinet pulls and knobs. ATLAS

Named in a tribute to Postmodernism, this collection of simple sinks in saturated, glossy colors was designed by Terri Pecora for Italian manufacturer Simas. They’re available in freestanding, countertop, and wall-mounted versions.

06 DRAWBAR Designed to disappear like other offerings in Dometic’s interior appliance portfolio, this compact wine drawer cools in space normally occupied by cutlery— below or adjacent to 24-inch-wide cabinetry. DOMETIC 08 RAINSTICK RAINSTICK 10 PO-MO SIMAS 07 HIGHLAND GARDEN PLANTER This combination planter-with-trellis adds function without too much flair in residential and commercial outdoor spaces.
10 08 06 07 09


To add drama without distracting detail, quartz counter manufacturer Cambria has developed a line of worktops as part of its Grandeur series that feature brass and steel alloy veining.



Still in development at press time, this understated showerhead from Delta Faucet’s First Wave Innovation Lab adds value with eight settings and material makeup of up to 35 percent nearshore ocean plastic. Designers can follow its development at


13 COOKING SURFACE PRIME Italian sintered-stone manufacturer ABKSTONE has managed to further minimize already streamlined induction cooking technology by integrating it seamlessly into the company’s nonporous counters.



Robert A.M. Stern Architects designed this sculptural collection of door handles, backplates, knobs, and pulls.


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Kevin Daly Architects and Productora team up on a headquarters that models sustainability—and reflects a nonprofit’s image.

The Houston Endowment’s new 31,718-square-foot headquarters opened to the public in October 2022. The building’s striking shade canopy and scalloped aluminum rainscreen (right and below) help cool it during summer.


In 2019, Los Angeles and New York–based Kevin Daly Architects and Mexico City’s Productora joined forces to vie with 120 other firms in an international competition for the chance to design the Houston Endowment’s new headquarters. While the endowment, one of the largest private foundations in Texas, had an existing office, it was an uninviting and somber space on the 64th floor of a downtown skyscraper. “It was much like stepping into an oil and gas firm or a banking executive’s office,” remarks the organization’s president, Ann Stern. “No one wanted to visit our office, and it didn’t reflect who we are.”

The organization, which supports multiple initiatives and groups tied to parks, arts and culture, and education, needed a headquarters that felt more accessible; it also needed to be state-of-the-art, showcasing enough sustainable features to serve as a net-zero role model for the rest of the community. That imperative was more in line with its identity as a philanthropic organization than something more architecturally showy.

Meanwhile, a restrained profile would also be appropriately contextual: Houston has impressive antecedents of this type— austere buildings in verdant settings amid generous tree canopies such as a recent expansion at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University; and buildings that make up the Menil Collection.

The endowment’s prominent shade elements similarly exploit a wealth of greenery by filtering light and shadow from the treetops that shelter its location on a leafy edge of Spotts Park. Although it is highly visible as a lone building peeking through trees, the impact is softened by its use of dappled light, terraces, and clerestory windows. That design celebrates a local effect known as the “zoohemic” canopy, a term coined by architect Lars Lerup, a Swedish-born scholar and Rice University professor, in describing Houston’s generous landscape of trees in his 2011 characterization of it as a “suburban city.”

To capitalize on the site’s wealth of tree-filtered daylight, the canopy features louvers.

“Houston has a tradition of a number of notable buildings that balance this same relationship between building and park, public and private,” says architect Kevin Daly.

But while those elements help to align the building with tradition, its engineering is breaking new ground. That’s thanks in large part to consulting on sustainability by Stuttgart environmental engineering firm Transsolar. The firm was pivotal in projecting the structure’s energy performance and problem-solving within the increasingly warming site. “They have been a really strong partner in establishing a basic approach to evaluating solar control and how to manage the overall heat gain,” Daly says.

While such considerations were important to the endowment as well, the goal wasn’t to build a “big sustainable achievement” as much as present a “toolbox of possibilities” that could be adopted by the organizations it works with, he notes.

These strategies included utilizing a hybrid structure made of steel and crosslaminated timber; the combination is high-performing and similar in strength to concrete. The team also dug 300-foot-deep geothermal wells that “eject heat into the soil around the building and help warm it during the winter,” says the architect.

A scalloped aluminum rainscreen, fabricated by Kinetica in Monterrey, Mexico, minimizes interior cooling demand. The

The architects’ hybrid steel-and-CLT framing solution is high-performing and a Houston first.
Clerestories and terraces visible from inside the main lobby area (below) add daylighting and connect the interior to green views outside.

lightweight material, while more energyintensive initially than, say, terra-cotta, was chosen for its potential recyclability. “A lot of design is now focused on strategies for making buildings completely recyclable,” Daly says. “We took the same considerations in mind for this project.” And while the project technically checks all the boxes for LEED Platinum certification (the client has chosen not to formally pursue the actual certification), gaining that recognition is less important to the architects than actually achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

“That’s something we aspire to on all projects,” Daly says. “After the first year, the building will be energy self-sufficient year-round.”

Opened to the public in October 2022, the 31,718-square-foot, $21 million building has become a place where both endowment employees and partners look forward to meeting and continuing to work toward a better Houston. The organization’s new home is a representation of the city and its complex social structure, and it offers solutions to ever-evolving environmental changes and concerns.

“For us, building a [ground-up structure] when we had never done so before, it was incredibly important to find the right design team. Not only did they build a beautiful, sustainable building but they wanted to understand what we do. They got it right from the very beginning,” Stern concludes. M


Selected Sources

• Architects: Kevin Daly Architects and Productora

• MEP engineer: CMTA

• Structural engineer: Arup

• Civil engineer: BGE

• Environmental graphics: MG&Co.

• Landscaping: TLS Landscape Architecture

• Lighting: George Sexton Associates

• Sustainability: Transsolar

• Construction manager: Forney Construction

• General contractor: Bellows

• AV/IT:

4B Technology

• Acoustics: Newson Brown

• Waterproofing: CDC


• Bath fittings: Toto

• Bath surfaces: Mutina

• Ceilings: Navy Island, Armstrong

• Flooring: Nora, Interface

• Furniture: Allermuir, Normann-Copenhagen, Herman Miller

• Kitchen surfaces: Corian

• Lighting: Zumtobel, USAI

• Paint: Benjamin Moore

• Textiles: Maharam

• Wall finishes: Unika Vaev

• Laminate casework: Fenix


• Cladding/facade systems: Kinetica

• Doors and windows: Kawneer

• Glazing: Tristar, Cristacurva

• Lighting: Ecosense, Selux


• Photovoltaics: JA Solar

• Building management: Johnson Controls

• Geothermal system: Cole’s Drilling with MLN

The second floor of the central atrium space (shown left) features clerestory glazing and artwork by JooYoung Choi. The Buffalo Bayou flexible event and meeting space (below, top) overlooks Spotts Park. The boardroom (bottom) features Kevin Daly Architects’ custom-designed furniture and white oak acoustic slats on walls.

REUSE Radical Repurpose

An office building in Norway is made almost entirely of scraps and demolition waste, changing the conversation around material reuse.

The European Commission estimates that the building industry creates around a third of the world’s waste. That’s an almost unimaginable volume of demolition debris— wood offcuts, old tile and carpet, pieces of steel, windows that didn’t quite fit, concrete rubble, and more. But viewed another way, all of that garbage is also a wealth of raw building materials waiting to take shape. Is it possible to design a building almost entirely from waste?

For Mad Arkitekter, an architecture studio founded in Oslo in 1997, the potential of reusing construction waste has been an obsession that led the firm to redesign its own offices with largely upcycled materials in 2021. When real estate developer Entra approached the firm about overhauling and expanding a 1958 office building nearby, the firm saw an opportunity to take reuse to the next level.

The project, named for its address at Kristian Augusts Gate 13, boasts nearly 80 percent reused components employed across the refurbished existing office building and an eight-story, 9,200-squarefoot addition. The strategy cut its embodied carbon emissions by 70 percent compared with baseline new construction.

At 43,000 square feet in total, the building “is big enough to set an example, but it was small enough to handle,” says Åshild Wangensteen Bjørvik, partner and CEO of Mad Arkitekter’s Oslo office. Her design team sourced materials such as structural steel, tile, bricks, wood, cladding

Kristian Augusts Gate 13 in Oslo, Norway, boasts nearly 80 percent reused components across a refurbished 1958 office building and an eight-story, 9,200-squarefoot addition, cutting the project’s embodied carbon emissions by 70 percent compared with baseline new construction.


Brand-new windows were sourced from a residential development that had inadvertently ordered the wrong product. The design had to be adapted, resulting in the staggered layout.


The new addition is clad partly in reused Steni panels, partly with metal plates and Cembrit plates (some as old as 35 years) that were sourced from three buildings and cut to size. They’re fastened with a simple screw system, which Åshild Wangensteen Bjørvik, partner and CEO of Mad Arkitekter’s Oslo office, says will make them easy to repair or replace.

panels, windows, and even concrete floor plates from 25 demolition sites and building projects around Norway that she calls “donor buildings.” Along the way, they proved that reuse has potential far beyond demonstration projects and off-grid homes.

The hurdles were many: Reuse is not exactly covered by building codes and regulations, the marketplace for reused materials is not well established, and coordinating the construction schedule with the demolition schedules of dozens of other projects required patience and flexibility. Certain elements couldn’t be

reused: Glass office partitions couldn’t be found in time, and only three of the addition’s floor slabs could be made of salvage.

Still, 80 percent is remarkable, and Bjørvik is optimistic that Kristian Augusts Gate 13 will create a pathway for subsequent reuse projects. “It was more expensive for these [steel and concrete] components in particular because they are complicated to reuse. But after this project, many others have followed. We made a new pathway, a new routine, a new way of doing things so that it’s much easier now and the cost is going down.”

To ensure safe repurposing of structural elements, the Mad Arkitekter team developed partnerships with research institutes and engineers in Norway to test steel and concrete for structural soundness. Support from the City of Oslo was also key. “The municipality really had confidence in us and that we would make a project that could handle both the law and the reuse, and certified that this building would last for years,” says Bjørvik.

The building’s tenant, coworking franchise Spaces, was another key partner. Originally, the interiors had to conform to


A central staircase was a lesson in flexibility. It was designed to be made from cut-up glue-laminated wood slabs sourced from a demolished school, but delays to the demolition schedule forced Mad to pivot and instead use wooden handrails from a demolished swimming pool; these were stripped of varnish, cut to size, and glued together to form the stairs.


the Spaces design manual, but given the varied availability of reused materials this wasn’t always feasible. In most cases, Bjørvik says her team was able to find reused materials that fit the Spaces palette, but they persuaded the brand to allow for some flexibility. In the end, Spaces was so invested in the process, it worked with Mad to create a new design manual specifically for reused buildings.

Inside, the space is eclectic and welcoming, decorated with a mosaic salvaged from the 1958 office interior, as well as a bar and central staircase both made of upcycled timber. Office spaces are partitioned by demountable wood and glass walls, and a kitchen on the first floor and terraces on the addition serve as social spaces. A green roof further cements its

Three of the addition’s floors were built with slabs recovered from the Regjeringskvartalet government offices that were damaged in a 2011 terrorist attack. The floors were cut into narrow strips, tested for structural soundness, and installed on a reused steel frame.

Bricks were sourced from six buildings around Oslo; their construction style, Bjørvik says, is a traditional method commonly seen in old houses around Northern Europe, where brick walls are reinforced with wooden beams. Here the team used steel to meet modern fire safety standards and construction stability standards. Left and facing: Original tile walls in the existing structure were uncovered and refreshed.

sustainability credentials. Judged by its popularity with Oslo’s tech and creative workers, the space is a success. “There are a lot of people who want to work in this building, and there’s a wait list for renting space,” Bjørvik notes with pride.

Her biggest piece of advice for reuse: You have to know your materials. “Everyone seems to think that the building industry revolution is digital. And yes, it can be. But it’s very much physical,” she says, pointing to a photograph of her team inspecting a pile of salvaged lumber. “You can’t just scan everything; you have to use your hands and you have to have a much deeper collaboration between the craftsmen and the designers. It’s an old-fashioned way to do it, but it has to be renewed in the future of building industry.” M



Sid Lee Architecture has transformed part of I. M. Pei’s Place Ville Marie in downtown Montreal into a living, breathing office.

At the heart of efforts to revitalize Montreal’s downtown business center is I. M. Pei’s iconic Place Ville Marie, a cruciform skyscraper that dominates the city’s skyline. At street level, Place Ville Marie is just as consequential, supplying a green esplanade in a part of the city that can feel gray and inaccessible. For decades, four quadrants at the base of the tower were the home of the Royal Bank of Canada, but three of the blocks have now been taken over by poly-creative agency Sid Lee, whose architecture arm carried out a root-and-branch redesign to bring the space into the 21st century.


Occupying three of the four quadrants that make up the podium level of I. M. Pei’s cruciform Place Ville Marie skyscraper in Montreal, the Biosquare is a new office for creative agency Sid Lee. The workplace appears suspended in a threedimensional matrix of white lines that was inspired by the 1962 development’s original infinite grid motif.


The goal of the project was to make the interior of the 1962 building feel fresh and welcoming for the new generation of creative staff working there. To achieve that, Jean Pelland, architect and principal partner at Sid Lee Architecture, and his team drew inspiration from the infinite grid motif of the Place Ville Marie development and imbued every element of the design with it, creating a continuity between the public esplanade outside and offices inside. The result is the illusion of an infinite floating lattice that’s accented by the vibrant green of tropical plants. It has aptly been christened the Biosquare.

“It was based on the modern design principles, which dictated how the original building was constructed—with an infinite grid which runs through all four quadrants that make Place Ville Marie’s base,” explains

Pelland. “We thought it would be interesting to do the same in a microcosm.”

The matrixlike system creates the illusion of a fully open workspace with an uninterrupted view of the plaza outside from the ground-floor entrance and café, while housing electrical components and creating opportunities to insert subtle partitions. Above, as if floating, two mezzanines connected by three bridges form the main workspaces, which are bathed in natural light from the skylights above.

“The infinite grid allows for everything to be interconnected, and provides a structure for lighting, dividing walls, and suspended greenery,” says Pelland. “It also allows for a metamorphosis of these different environments but always with an underlying fine linear structure that ties everything together.”

Sid Lee Architecture uncovered the building’s original travertine floors in main collaborative zones, where extensive plantings and wooden furniture keep the space from feeling sterile. Workspaces are located on open mezzanines, giving the entire office a feeling of lightness and connection, while affording workstations some privacy. Lighting was provided by local studio Lambert & Fils.


The structure was custom-fabricated from steel and sits atop the bush-hammered stone of the ground-floor café, kitchen, and washrooms. The work and meeting spaces suspended above are fluid, with open meeting areas at the center of each floating quadrant. The original travertine floors were restored during the renovation, and several skylights were enlarged to create a sense of airiness. There is little in the way of decoration save the voluminous tropical foliage deployed strategically around the main space. A living wall at ground level is integrated into a gender-neutral bathroom, and the structure surrounding the staircase in the southwest quadrant has integrated planters. “There are so many plants we need a gardener,” says Pelland. Between the foliage and the zenithal lighting from above, visitors get the impression of entering not an office but a greenhouse.

The overall effect is bright and fluid, insistent on letting materials speak for themselves as metal, glass, and minerals are suspended, almost weightless, in an optical illusion of grids and greenery. The Biosquare is a natural extension of Pei’s right-angled geometry, which has defined Place Ville Marie for six decades, but with softer touches and welcoming edges. As a functional workplace, it centers its inhabitants and their well-being. M

A dark conference room features a black table with a metallic base and provides sharp contrast to the all-white-everything design of a lounge space nearby. These breakout rooms were intended to be immersive experiences that allow workers to lose themselves in their creative projects.


NEW TALENT AnthropologistArchitects

New York City–based Soft-Firm empowers communities with its observational approach to design.

Talitha Liu and Lexi Tsien, founders of the Brooklyn, New York–based interdisciplinary design practice Soft-Firm, formally studied anthropology at separate institutions before they met as graduate students at Yale University’s School of Architecture. Now they bring their sociocultural awareness to every project they design. “Our ethos [is] using our backgrounds as anthropologists to observe what’s there on the site or how it’s used,” says Tsien. “We approach a lot of projects with the idea that the site is like a found object. We do a lot of looking at what’s in the area, what are the populations, what are historical pieces that we want to pull out.”

Their approach amounts to using design as a tool for activism: It requires that they acknowledge that programming they craft can either destabilize a community or empower it. “There’s just so much about the built environment that is a product of so many different forces that have been discriminatory and harmful to a lot of different communities,” Tsien notes. “We’re always trying to find the opportunity for r eframing a social paradigm. We’re really interested in the social aspect of how architecture can empower different communities.”

An awareness that a project’s uses and users will change over time is one outcome: That realization is a thread running through the firm’s body of work and leads it to design with flexibility in mind, giving users the space to “self-determine” their built environment. The accommodating nature of its work was on display in “Drive-Thru,” an installation in the form of an outdoor theater that ran from

Talitha Liu (left) and Lexi Tsien (right), cofounders of Brooklyn, New York–based architectural practice Soft-Firm, draw on a shared experience of studying anthropology as undergraduates for their sensitive and human-centered design projects.

Soft-Firm’s renovation of a landmarked brownstone in Brooklyn is intended as a model for intergenerational living for an elderly couple, an architect (Tsien), and another family. The design connects the three groups’ dwelling spaces via minimal interventions while affording each privacy and respecting the building’s historic details.


February to April of last year at an outdoor plaza in Downtown Brooklyn. According to its designers, the project reimagined “how shared public spaces can be activated during the winter months to connect communities.” The plaza was built out to reflect the surrounding downtown infrastructure, with screens that ran movies by local artists and filmmakers and space for live events with neighborhood organizations during Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

“I think we try to build in some degree of interactivity that allows change,” says Tsien. “We want to figure out a way that different groups can coexist and toggle on and off.”

Designing for the evolution of a space or an object over time also comes from ethnographic observations Liu and Tsien, who both identify as “American-born Chinese,” have made of Chinatowns and

Soft-Firm designed a renovation for Bodycraft, a dance and fitness studio in Brooklyn, making use of lightweight polycarbonate screens to delineate reception and studio areas. When the partitions are closed, the translucent material affords privacy while allowing for visual connection and flow. Opened, they offer a sight line from the busy street front on Atlantic Avenue to a serene back garden.

COURTESY SOFT-FIRM NEW TALENT Anthropologist-Architects

other communities that use public space and objects for multiple purposes.

“Something as simple as a plastic stool can end up becoming a place to sell things or a place to play chess. That adaptability and its accessibility to communities is really exciting to us,” says Tsien.

In addition to teaching—Tsien at Columbia, Yale, and Syracuse University and Liu at Yale—the pair have taken on a handful of residential projects that make space for the harmonious colocation of cultures and generations. One, a substantial kitchen remodel in Seattle, adds an enclosed space to an open, western-style kitchen “to adapt it to hard-core wok-cooking,” says Liu with a laugh. Also in progress is an addition to a house in upstate New York. That project seeks to accommodate three generations of a family and the wide variety of activities that they’ll use the house for, together and separately. “Both projects are about family flexibility. That idea tracks through everything from our ethnographic studies to projects. I think what people are looking for is flexibility and reprogramming,” says Tsien. So even if that community is an intergenerational group of kin, Soft-Firm’s designs encourage a group being “nourished by difference” instead of being divided by it. M

Left: Soft-Firm’s “Drive-Thru” installation (2022) brought the magic of drive-through movies to Downtown Brooklyn as a part of the competition organized by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute.
Below: “Love Letters” was the winner of the 13th annual Love in Times Square Design Competition.


Personalizing the Buyer Journey

New ThinkLab research unveils five specifier types for the interior design industry.

If you’re a product manufacturer, what do you do when your industry undergoes a massive shift? You come to ThinkLab for data-driven insights on how to navigate what’s next. If you are in sales, face time with clients dropped from 80 percent pre-pandemic to less than 40 percent at the time this article was written, according to ThinkLab data. That means you’re trying to find new ways to scale your time and reach your clients. If you are in marketing, consider that specifiers are relying more heavily on digital tools. As a result, you are probably feeling the heat to create “all of the things.” This could leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure as to what to prioritize first and whether what you’re creating will even be used.

If we’ve learned anything within the past few years, it’s that a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. But how can manufacturers reach clients in a personalized way when everything feels important? Cue the findings of our latest design hackathon research: specifier personas.

We set out to answer this question: What is the desired blend of human and digital interaction with brands today? After six months of research—including data from more than 20 hours of focus groups and over 850 survey respondents—we created the interior design industry’s first wide-scale persona study.


A buyer persona helps you appeal more authentically to your customers. They are used often in the consumer marketing space and include customer characteristics like demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. Beyond simply categorizing specifiers by their role or generation, personas take you through the buyer’s journey and help you understand new mindsets to know where to invest.


We uncovered five unique specifier personas in our research, yet we discovered that they all share a core value: ease of doing business. The key difference for each persona is in how you deliver that ease of doing business and how they each measure success. Therefore, the “phygital” journey (the combination of human attention and digital self-serve) with your brand varies for each persona. The power comes in understanding and curating these moments along the buying journey through the lens of persona preferences.


01 The rep-first specifier: Currently the most represented persona in our sample set, it is likely the most familiar to you. In fact, if you are in sales, you may have thought this was the only specifier persona. You may hear something like this from a rep-first specifier: “I believe in personal relationships and value companies that have a local rep.”

02 The brand-first specifier: Constituting the second-largest share of our sample set, this persona may have been front and center for you if you are in marketing.

You might hear something like this from a brand-first specifier: “I have a small collection of brands that are my go-tos. I’m extremely loyal to these brands and will only deviate if the client requires it.”

03 The sustainability-first specifier: Though this persona currently takes up the smallest percentage, these specifiers are probably


working on some of the highest-profile projects in our industry, and we believe they are a rapidly emerging segment.

You may hear something like this from a sustainability-first specifier: “If I don’t advocate for the environment, who will? My joy is helping clients discover they don’t have to sacrifice other things to reach sustainability goals.”

04 The data-first specifier: We found that this persona was most likely working as an end user in purchasing or a member of the commercial real estate community. They are also the most likely to be working on large campus projects with annuity business and extensive RFPs.

Here’s what you might hear from a data-first specifier: “I have a specific set of criteria I am trying to meet, and I need clear information given to me by the manufacturer so that I can form my own comparisons.”

05 The digital-first specifier: While this persona is certainly digital-first, it’s important to note that they are not digital only.

In fact, when they want to speak to a human, they require the quickest response of all the personas.

You might hear something like this from a digital-first specifier: “I should be able to self-serve for all the easy stuff online without requiring help. But when I need assistance, I need it now.”


ThinkLab developed a persona guide to orient you to the unique preferences of each—along with applicable tactics to help you craft persona-specific experiences.

Visit and learn more about how to maximize your reach to each of these five personas.

Meredith Campbell is a member of the Research & Content Development team for ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW. Join in to explore what’s next at

In Depth

Technology can refer to a tool, but also the capability that the tool makes possible. In this issue Metropolis examines both notions. The three winning projects of our Responsible Disruptors program demonstrate the power of scientific advances to improve design outcomes—and lives. Through developments in 3D printing, Oakland, California–based Rael San Fratello shows that it’s a wondrous time to ponder what technology continues to mean for design. Meanwhile, elements from the nearly 50-year-old style known as High-Tech Architecture are reemerging in interiors and objects where a factory aesthetic meets digital technologies. Sourced from dizzying virtual tech that has allowed designers to demonstrate reality-defying concepts and a gaming culture that has normalized a pixelated worldview, this trend shows that our love of tech has a playful, ornamental expression and is not entirely new.

“Web-3 Café,” an installation at Paris’s Galerie Charraudeau last spring, was created by Harry Nuriev of Crosby Studios, inspired by and partly designed using videogames.


A new wave of designers revisit elements of High-Tech Architecture, creating interiors and objects that are a testament to function as ornament.



What does the term “high-tech” mean for designers today? For Harry Nuriev of New York–based Crosby Studios, it’s all about virtual experience, not a functionalist aesthetic. Last year, the designer launched a first-of-its-kind, digital-only clothing pop-up in New York’s Soho neighborhood

for the AR fashion platform ZERO10. The innovative concept bridges digital and physical retail experiences while showcasing the designer’s signature pixelated videogame aesthetic that he has developed through both interior and furniture collections.


merging in 1970s Britain, the High-Tech Architecture movement was characterized by inside-out mechanical engineering, exposed structural systems in bold hues, and flexible interiors clad in lightweight materials with a metallic sheen. Popularized by architects such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Renzo Piano, the style constructed an ornamental language of industry and factory production where function was the aesthetic. Otherwise known as “structural expressionism,” High-Tech Architecture articulated components of construction that made structural elements appear as if they could move at any moment.

Yet these hulking steel titans paradoxically emerged at a time when technology itself was beginning to move toward miniaturization, best seen in the dawn of mic rochips, home computers, and global communication networks. Such advances led to computer-aided design, new material technologies, and rapid prototyping, resulting in forms that defined the “look” of technology as one of sleekness and simplicity.

Today a new crop of designers, working in both interiors and objects, seem to be reconsidering what a “hightech” aesthetic means for design. Diverging from post-pandemic trends that focused on natural, organic materials, these designers incorporate digital manufacturing techniques and processes while playfully engaging with the factorymade trimmings of the past.


Valencia, Spain–based creative studio Masquespacio’s MO Bakery and Espresso bar in Saudi Arabia blends industrial factory aesthetics with materials and finishes that allude to flowing water.

Divided into three distinct zones, the bakery’s layout represents baking techniques and processes. Throughout the interior, all furniture was customdesigned by the studio and treated with metallic finishes that “generate reflections that create the distortion that could be made by water.”


Masquespacio’s signature curvilinear forms advance the language of high-tech toward a more streamlined aesthetic. Elements such as sandblasted tubes and glass and chrome orbs reflect on the space’s mirrored ceilings, distorting visitors’ perception of the space around them. The bakery incorporates fully controllable RGB lighting in order to create different atmospheres determined by programming.


For Munich-based architecture firm Buero Wagner, the existing architecture of its own office was a source of inspiration (this page). To create an office expansion that utilizes basement space while maximizing daylight, the firm incorporated enlarged windows and silver and galvanized finishes to reflect the natural light.

A large silver curtain made of aluminum vapor barriers is placed in front of service spaces to separate work and living zones.

One such designer, Harry Nuriev of Crosby Studios, known for his chromatic surfaces, pixelated videogame furnishings, and wallpapers that reference digital software, is critical of conflating technology with aesthetics. He regards the high-tech movement of the past as “a cold engineer’s functional aesthetic,” adding that today an understanding of high-tech design should be “all about virtual experience.”

Defining his practice, Nuriev recently coined the term “transformism,” a design philosophy rooted in bringing together existing objects and materials that “transmit from one thing to another,” he writes on his Instagram. Take, for example, his Video Game Stool collection, which was inspired by “how furniture looks when it’s missing quality. When you translate [physical] furniture to a virtual world, or to a video game, the file needs to be downsized.” Technology then, within its limits, produces a sort of aesthetic that does not always conform to “high-tech.” Nuriev’s own “transformist” vision of these qualities, as seen in projects like his Retro Futurism Collection, converts streamlined machine-clad motifs into soft, reflective textiles—like liquid stainless steel tenderly settling into place and becoming sofas or bedsheets.

For other designers, factory aesthetics become the setting for larger metaphors within commercial spaces. Valencia,


Spain–based creative consultancy

Masquespacio’s MO Bakery and Espresso Bar in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, for example, is inspired by the role of water in baking and coffee brewing and utilizes metallic finishes that allude to flowing water. Sandblasted pipes climb down from the mirrored ceiling and open to become booths, recalling the pipes and air ducts that serve as entrances and lifts at Centre Pompidou. A sinuous wave of glass and chrome orbs reference gas bubbles, floating above guests and blending the shine of industry with a glossy organicism. The choice of curvilinear, sweeping forms advances the formal and structural language of the high-tech look toward a more streamlined aesthetic.

This look finds itself a t home in various contexts but also thrives in spaces where its presence had never truly left. Munich-based architectural studio Buero Wagner has transformed the basement of its practice into a workspace, inspired by its own built-in industrial elements. Galvanized steel gratings are used as part of a custom-built seating area, and grated furniture is welded together rather than screwed, as if the furniture were growing organically from the ground alongside the staircase and guardrail, which are made of the same material. The effect of transparency from the grated steel is in concert with a floor-to-ceiling metallic curtain. Made of aluminum foil, the partition provides the space with natural light while also lending an element of privacy. Elements of industry refuse to be hidden: Exposed gas pipes snake around the walls alongside a staircase, and X-Beams frame the handrails overlooking the basement, perched atop a suspended steel beam. The space is versatile in use, alluding to the dreams of flexible, open-plan interiors of the High-Tech architectural age, where partitions can create zones for specific use rather than permanent rooms.

Czech architecture studio

CHYBIK+KRISTOF’s newest structure, the Modular Research Center for capsule and modular architecture manufacturer KOMA Modular, embodies this desire for flexibility. Envisioned as an “innovation hub” to prototype modular building methods, the project blends elements of High-Tech Architecture and digital design. The center is constructed via rotating containers that function as



Research Center for capsule and modular architecture manufacturer KOMA Modular, embodies the high-tech desire for flexibility. The project acts as a prototype for an

adaptable modular building system that uses rotated shipping containers as columns in a scheme that notably lacks right angles. The result is a light-filled space whose unconventional geometry pushes the boundaries of traditional modular architecture.

Located in the Czech Republic, CHYBIK+KRISTOF’s newest structure, Modular

The Modular Research Center is a malleable and adaptable space consisting of three main elements: the floor, the container, and the roof units. The units are leveled onto planar flooring modules, which are then anchored to the foundation, functioning as columns. Placed in between the containers and the roof units, large windows draw in light that reflects on the interior’s metallic surfaces.


structural columns and is unique in its omission of right angles. Rather than insinuating a sort of structural impressionism of movement via support elements or construction systems, the rotating containers turn the campus into a true living machine to solve problems in an instant, in the spirit of Cedric Price, who famously commented that architecture “is too slow to solve problems.” The project, constructed via three main modules (roof, container, and floor), is resplendent with shiny loadbearing walls, accentuated by floor-toceiling windows that allow natural light to come in and reflect off the perforated metal ceilings.

Reiterating the roots of High-Tech Architecture’s own ecological motivations, the materials used to construct the Modular Research Center are locally produced. These elements emphasize the structure as a living, ever-changing

module, in line with the values of the client in promoting human activity and movement through thoughtful structures.

The High-Tech architectural style has also found a revival within furniture and objects. In a more obvious way, the Korean design group niceworkshop’s Affordance Series acts as a love letter to the High-Tech era. The series, created from polished stainless steel, clearly references industry and machinery. The chairs, for example, have industrial lifts rather than legs and roll upon steel wheels. A bench, inspired by an assembly line, sits upon a sphere made with mathematical precision. Bolts and screws are not only exposed but extremely oversize, as joinery and construction act as ornament.

The collection, inspired by the ide a of “inducing human behavior and psychology,” pushes its users to perform the tasks of an industrial factory worker on the objects they interact with day to

Hyunseog Oh of South Korean design studio niceworkshop believes furniture affects human behavior and psychology. For the Affordance Series, the designer utilized stainless steel, industrial lifts, and wheels to trigger responses from users. “In other words,” Oh writes, “it means the possibility of linkage of uses, actions, and functions occur according to a specific relationship between furniture and user.”

day. “In our daily lives, we unconsciously receive various behavioral or psychological inducements,” explains founder Hyunseog Oh. “The biggest point I wanted to show is the interaction between furniture and people. The series borrows the form of a conveyor belt’s ‘roller’ and an industrial ‘lift’ with clear movements repeated as ‘a device for using furniture.’ ” Recalling Le Corbusier’s idea of homes and furniture as “machines for living,” the collection could be seen as embodying a type of ultramodernity that the High-Tech architects lauded.

Whether in commercial projects or objects, the familiar motifs of the High-Tech Architecture movement, adapted for use on a smaller scale, still attest to a fascination in design with the workings of the machine, even to the point of extending beyond function and into the bliss of ornament. M


Left: Ban’s design for the Centre Pompidou-Metz, built in 2010, consists of a timber gridshell structure suspended from a steel core tower.

Opposite: A detail of the gridshell, inspired by the construction of a Chinese bamboo hat, shows how laminated spruce beams are held together by beech plywood nodes and steel bolts.

The Wizard of Wood

Shigeru Ban, the Pritzker Prize–winning maestro of timber architecture, weighs in on contemporary mass timber buildings.

Far left: The architect Shigeru Ban

Mass timber construction may be the most popular new trend in architecture, but architect Shigeru Ban has been working with wood since the 1980s, evolving a sophisticated, dazzlingly intricate, structure-first approach that is literally decades ahead of everyone else. His new book Shigeru Ban: Timber in Architecture (Rizzoli) showcases his deep thinking and stunning work: woven timber roofs, trussed arches, gridshells, parabolic LVL ceilings, and glulam space frames. Metropolis editor at large Sam Lubell spoke with Ban about his longtime employment of mass timber and his views on how others are now working with it. Spoiler alert: Ban isn’t impressed.

Shigeru Ban: Timber in Architecture By Shigeru Ban
Rizzoli New York, November 2022

Sam Lubell: Your book, in my opinion, is a great way to learn about timber architecture, how to employ it and how to be innovative with it. And it’s impressive to see how long you’ve been doing it.

Shigeru Ban: Yes, as you know, it’s now very fashionable to use timber. I’ve been working with timber for many years.

SL: In your introduction you talk about your love of wood, and some of your very specific influences. You talk about a carpenter who worked in your family house, and important architects and engineers like Frei Otto, John Hejduk, and Hermann Blumer. Can you sum up how you became a wood aficionado?

SB: I wanted to be a carpenter when I was small, because I loved the smell of wood, and I thought the process of using it was magical. It was like magic for me that traditional carpenters made houses and fine chairs without any power tools. It’s

beautiful just watching that happen. Today that kind of approach is not really possible, but in those days Japanese carpenters didn’t use any electric tools. It was incredible to make a house just from wood.

But I also love wood’s limitations. If you want to make a structure out of steel, it is such a wonderful material. You can do anything you want by welding. You don’t have to create an innovative joint. It’s such a wonderful, easy material. But wood is a natural material, so there are many more challenges. So my interest is in using that kind of humble material and working within those limitations to create something special. To take advantage of the limitations.

That is why for many of my timber structures I don’t want to use a steel joint. Once you start using st eel joints it doesn’t need to be a timber structure. It can be a steel structure. You’re just replacing the linear element; it’s not really interesting. My interest is in creating a structure which can be

built only with timber. That is characteristic of timber.

I’m always looking for the challenge. Because if I’m given an unlimited budget with a huge site without strict limitations or requirements from a client, I don’t think I can design anything. I always look for some problem or limitation to find the solution.

SL: Environmentalist Paul Hawken, who wrote one of the book’s essays, talks about how your use of wood is celebrating the living world versus the man-ma de world. Not conquering nature but being part of nature.

SB: Not exactly. Even I don’t like to be in a woody space surrounded by everything with wood. I like to have a contrast. I like to articulate; I like to emphasize the beauty of the timber by contrasting it with something else. So it’s like having this beautiful stone wall in the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. The pattern and nature of the stone is so beautiful because of the

Opposite: Ban reviews construction progress for the timber space frame roof at the Aspen Art Museum, which was completed in 2014. Left: The timber space frame roof, made of spruce laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and birch plywood, extends over the museum’s third-floor café.

For the Imai Hospital Daycare Center, completed in 2001 in Odate, Japan, Ban created a tunnel of steam-bent LVL boards (right) that were bolted together. A light space frame (opposite) was

contrast with a neutral material like white seating and very simple space. So in order to emphasize the beauty of wood, I don’t want to be surrounded by wood.

SL: Mass timber is so popular now. It’s been a remarkable rise. It’s not a new technology, but this kind of widespread use is new. So why do you think it took so long to gain acceptance? Do you think it’s because people ha d a lot of misconceptions? They thought it was unsafe or cheap or not sustainable? Not practical? Hard to maintain? Why do you think it was?

SB: Architects are always looking for the fashionable style of the day. In the ’80s Postmodernism was very popular, so people’s interest was not material or structure. It was about the surface or the collection of surfaces. And in a very short period of time, the fashion became Deconstructivism. There’s always a fashionable style of the day in any time. I

think people are always looking for the next style to follow. I think because of the big movement toward sustainability, and the ecological movement, timber has now become the most popular material.

SL: But it seems like there’s more to it. The material itself—

SB: No, I think that architects use wood as a decoration now and it’s just very superficially used. My interest is not only in using natural material but in not wasting material, saving energy. This was a philosophy of Frei Otto, one of my mentors. He said that his interest was in having the minimum material or minimum energy to get the maximum space. So that’s the same thing. How to take advantage of each characteristic, or each material or each method of construction to reduce material and energy but still gain space. I’m doing the same thing no w with materials like carbon fiber and plastic.

SL: What do you think it is about you that drives you to work with materials and techniques that are not fashionable?

SB: Well, since I was a student, when I studied history of architecture, I was a big fan of Frei Otto and others like him. They could avoid following the fashionable style by inventing their own material and structural systems. So I wanted to be an architect who was not influenced by the fashionable style. I don’t want to copy other people’s designs. I want to make my own structural systems. That’s why I started developing my own systems for paper structures and wood structures.

One example is the roof of the Centre Pompidou in Metz. I wanted to use the timber structure horizontally, not vertically. Normally, in order to take advantage of the structural effect of beams, we have to use them vertically. But I started using them horizontally in order to avoid the complicated connection of steel overlapping with timber. The idea came from a traditional Chinese hat. Originally I worked with Ove Arup, and I proposed my structural design. They proposed a different structural system, saying it was cheaper, and I compromised. But the price turned out to be more than our budget, and the mayor forced me to change the structure to steel. I didn’t want to do that, so I visited a few architects who were really good with timber, and finally I met Hermann Blumer through a timber contractor in Germany. When I showed him my original design, he immediately said that it was possible, and cheaper than the other one. In two weeks he had analyzed it and gotten an estimate from a contractor. I changed my engineer to work with him because he always understands my philosophy and we share the same direction. He’s one of the real genius engineers who can realize my proposals.

SL: Are there people that you’re following, either engineers or architects that are really being inventive with wood?

SB: I don’t see anyone.

added on the outside to support a corrugated steel roof.

SL: Do you think there are a lot of things holding back real inventiveness with wood? Perhaps it’s because the codes haven’t adapted? Or because of cost? Lack of training? Or is it just lack of imagination?

SB: I think timber specialists, with expertise in both engineering and architecture, are very limited. In most schools there’s nobody who can really teach timber structures. There’s nobody like Frei Otto. He not only pioneered the thin membrane structure, but he is also the pioneer of the timber grid structure.

SL: Do you see timber becoming a default in construction? Do you think that it could someday replace concrete and steel?

SB: No, no, no. It cannot replace other materials because each material has its own characteristics. For instance, some people try to make high-rise buildings out of timber instead of steel. I’m not interested in doing that because timber is not appropriate for high-rise building. Timber is so weak, and protecting it from fire is so difficult. Now in Japan some companies have made fire-rated timber structures, but it’s fake. Because of our codes, it’s timber surrounded by cement and just decorated outside with a very thin wood like a timber column or beam. But if we start doing this, the inside could be concrete or steel. It doesn’t matter. High-r ise building with this kind of material is not necessary. It’s all fake.

SL: It clearly sounds like you’re not impressed with the majority of the timber architecture or construction that’s happening right now.

SB: The architect has to invent their timber system structure, not depend on the engineer. I never asked Mr. Blumer to design the structure. I always designed it myself, and he analyzed and helped me realize it. But most architects just design the shape and ask the engineer to find the solution in timber or even steel. They don’t design the structure.

At the Halsey Nine Bridges Golf Clubhouse in Yeoju, South Korea (above), Ban was able to build a timber gridshell roof without the steel bolts he had employed at the Centre Pompidou-Metz (both projects were completed the same year). The only steel components were the tension braces used in the caps of the timber columns that hold the roof up.

For the Swatch headquarters in Biel, Switzerland, Ban proposed an unprecedented 787-footlong timber gridshell. Construction workers pieced together 62,792 prefabricated, interlocking roof elements like a giant jigsaw puzzle—or Swiss watch—to complete the project in 2019.

SL: For you I assume that’s happened over time. It’s been a process of learning, because you’ve been doing it for so long and you started framing furniture into buildings with the furniture houses, and then you have trussed arches, gridshells, woven timber, steam bending, big cantilevers, very amazing joints; these hybrids you were talking about with concrete and steel and glass and paper. Your book is very clear in showing that this is not something you can do very quickly. You have to be dedicated to doing it over many years.

SB: Right. It’s that combination of the experience, knowledge, and collaboration with the engineering specialist. I hope that the people who take a look at my book understand that it’s not just a fashionable style. There is lots of accumulation of engineering knowledge and experience necessary to create timber structures. The book is not just a catalog; it’s the different possibilities in wood. I hope that people can understand that. M



The work of Oakland, California–based design firm Rael San Fratello transcends categories but always remains grounded.

Ronald Rael is a designer, activist, architect, and Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Virginia San Fratello is an educator, designer, creative technologist, and chair of the Department of Design at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley.

of the


Photography by Kelsey McClellan

Since 2009, Rael and San Fratello have been experimenting with 3D-printed clay (this page, bottom), launching a 3D-printing “MAKE-tank” called Emerging Objects in 2010, followed by the book Printing Architecture: Innovative Recipes for 3D Printing (Princeton Architectural Press) in 2018. For a forthcoming luminous totem collection, San Fratello constructs 3D-printed study models out of bioplastic (opposite, this page).

Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, the two principals of Oakland, California–based design studio Rael San Fratello, aren’t traditional architects. Rather than designing buildings for construction, their main preoccupations are about dismantling structures and building new ones that connect us. Over the past two decades, their politically charged projects have made a persuasive case for rethinking everything from American border control to building materials. “There’s a lot of points of entry to their work for so many people. They don’t allow themselves to be boxed in by labeling themselves, and they will use any tool at their disposal,” says Brittany Corrales, curator at the Arizona State University (ASU) Art Museum, which recently held a solo exhibition of the firm’s work.

The exhibit’s two new commissions, House Divided and House United , reference the U.S.–Mexico border wall and serve as a follow-up to the firm’s viral 2019


Teeter-Totter Wall , in which they penetrated the border wall near El Paso, Texas, with seesaw planks in an act of rebellious play. Representing how communities have been split, House Divided is a bifurcated structure in which the furnishings themselves (a dining set, a bed) have been halved. The two cultures come to life in telling details: The Mexican bedroom has a wooden crucifix on the wall, while the American half has a throw pillow that reads “Have a little faith.” A companion piece, House United, is an open-air pavilion with a parametrically sculpted roof of steel angles and walls of adobe blocks. The installation is not purely an artistic expression—it is intended for actu al use as a communal gathering space at Casa de la Misericordia, a migrant shelter in Nogales, Mexico. Rael and San Fratello have been doing pro bono work there and knew of a mountain of steel originally slated for building the border wall that was sitting in a Phoenix steel-


Last year, the Arizona State University Art Museum hosted a retrospective on Rael and San Fratello’s work titled A Country Is Not a House: Ronald Rael + Virgina San Fratello In it, two new commissions, House Divided and House United (opposite), represent how communities have been split at the United States–Mexico border wall. This page: Ronald Rael holds up a 3D-printed ceramic cool brick assembly.


The firm has been leading the way in robotic construction, completing some of the world’s first 3D-printed structures out of adobe using a robotic arm. Recently, San Fratello has been using the robot arm to develop textured 3D-printed bioplastic parts.

yard. “It seemed so fitting to use this hostile material to create a roof that people could come together underneath,” says San Fratello. (Post-exhibit, the pavilion is heading south to the shelter.)

Early on in their career, the two realized how powerfully architecture can communicate political ideas. In 2005, they designed Prada Marfa, an adobe replica of a Prada boutique, a collaboration with German-based artist duo Elmgreen and Dragset. Sited incongruously in the remote borderlands of West Texas, the installation was a commentary on the growing economic inequality between north and south. For Rael, who grew up in rural Colorado in an adobe house that his great-grandfather constructed, building with earth links him with past generations and a family history that spans Indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. land ownership. “I continue to practice those earthen building traditions in contemporary ways, both by hand and with digital tools,” says Rael, who has built several traditional hornos , or mud ovens, reintroducing this iconic symbol of food and connection.

Since 2008, Rael and San Fratello have been 3D-printing clay as an extension of an ancient practice that predates notions of statehood. They’ve also brought salt, curry powder, and other unlikely materials into the realm of contemporary design. These designermachine collaborations have a winning playfulness (they’ve made a globular vessel from cotton candy and “Coffee Coffee Cups” from coffee grounds) and are underpinned by their deep belief that the ability to design should be widely accessible and utilize low-cost or freely available materials. “The construction industry generates tremendous waste


material,” points out San Fratello, who grew up in Savannah, Georgia, and would “cruise timber” with her father, a forester. “How do we take all that sawdust and create something new?”

Both Rael and San Fratello are full-time professors at public universities (University of California, Berkeley, and San Jose State University, respectively) and have made many of their printer recipes and “hacks” publicly available. “They take their work as educators very seriously and are trying to make these technologies easier to use,” says Christina De León, associate curator of U.S. Latino design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, who spent several weeks at a time observing their patient trial-and-error process for the 2022 documentary Mud Frontier: Architecture at the Borderlands.

On a larger scale, robotic construction has been touted for its potential to create better-designed, more cost-effective housing. Rael San Fratello recently completed some of the world’s first 3D-printed adobe structures, serving as proof of concept for full-scale homes. Casa Covida, whose name is a Spanishlanguage play on “COVID” and “living

Casa Covida (left and below) is a house designed for cohabitation in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The home was an experiment in merging Indigenous building materials with 3D-printing technologies, utilizing adobe, a combination of sand, silt, clay, water, and straw that is dried in the sun.

A 3D-printed cement light fixture (opposite) made of close-packing hexagons and pentagons hangs in Rael’s studio at the University of California, Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design.



together,” is an evocative three-chamber structure that is open to the sky. Each room is eight feet in diameter—reflecting the capabilities of the robot arm—and 12 feet high. The exaggerated height is for architectural impact, but also to demonstrate a benefit of 3D printing. “Adobe brick is really heavy, and you may only have the ability to lift it to a certain height, but the robot can keep going,” notes San Fratello.

Casa Covida was completed at the end of 2020, and the robot arm has since been deployed to build “skylos” with soaking tubs at the Frontier Drive-Inn in southern Colorado. The open-air structures are the first 3D-printed earth buildings that the public can experience. Formed from 1,200 layers, the skylos look woven, as if they were large clay baskets. “People have been making houses and spaces from dirt for 10,000 years. When you go inside, you feel connected to the experience of becoming human,” says Rael. “It feels amazing.”

Psychological studies have shown that when people feel a sense of awe, they feel more connected and part of a larger whole. The architects have embraced the job of creating those transcendent moments, writing, “We have to create disruptive situations that bring attention to our work—otherwise, no one would ever know who we are or what we do…. We like to discover overlooked places and try to do the most with the least .” By doing the heavy lifting to bring their flights of imagination to life, they remind us not to be constrained by the reality that separates us. M

UC Berkeley, Rael holds up a 3D-printed micaceous clay teapot. Behind him are study models for various 3D-printed ceramic cups and vases. To create the objects, the studio uses Potterware, a software application designed by Emerging Objects that allows users to design ceramic objects for 3D printing.

Conscious Innovation

Metropolis’s Responsible Disruptors program honors A&D technology projects that make a positive impact.

Breakthroughs in technology often cause more problems than they solve, resulting in negative consequences like social disorder, environmental degradation, and economic marginalization. But the winners of our second annual Responsible Disruptors program demonstrate that when employed thoughtfully, technology can make change for the better and disruption can be ethical.




Cultivating a human habitat

Is it possible to produce a human structure that is more compatible with the habitats of other life-forms—one that evolves with the seasons and contributes to the ecosystems around it? This question feels existential against the backdrop of our present-day built environment, and it led architects Sylvain Bilodeau and Nicolas MathieuTremblay of Quebec-based firm Architecturama to a tangible vision for their Living Architecture prototype. The firm’s tentlike, triangular structure was made of a living willow tree and resided from 2019 to 2022 in the village of Saint-AlphonseRodriguez, where it served as a sculpture, shelter, and community gathering space.

With its practice operating at the intersection of architecture and public art, the

Architecturama team was motivated to find more sustainable approaches to its projects. “We were asking ourselves, ‘How can we do something to animate the public spaces with less environmental impact?’” Bilodeau explains. After receiving a grant from the Lanaudière Territorial Partnership Programme and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec that required the firm to work with regional collaborators near the project’s site, Architecturama landed on the willows grown by a local producer for its structural form. “The willow is a fantastic plant because it grows very fast. It also can be used for phytoremediation, so it is a plant that works well for these structures,” Mathieu-Tremblay says.

The Living Architecture project’s success could be seen through the response

of Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez residents, whom the architects found supportive. A local volunteer committee was intimately involved in assisting with the structure’s installation, watering, foliage maintenance, and trimming, which enabled it to live on beyond the grant-funded period. While the intimacy of the relationship between the small community and Living Architecture reflects an essential beginning for the project, Architecturama hopes to scale up the prototype for larger cities in the future. “Because of the living component, we saw this project as an experiment,” says MathieuTremblay. “Now that it’s been done at a small scale and we learned of the things [that] didn’t work quite as we planned, we hope to make bigger projects with living materials.”

Architecturama used locally grown willow trees to create its living architecture prototype, which served as a sculpture, shelter, and gathering space in the village of Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


At a distance, the Motivational Tapestry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Civic Data Design Lab (CDDL) might be mistaken for a decorative work of art. The multicolored, woven piece spans 15 by 8 feet and is arresting to the eye owing to the intricate folds composing its surface. However, closer inspection reveals its patterns of paper “currency” folded by Latin American migrants and printed with information about migration. Based on a data set of 1,624 individuals in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras taken from a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) survey in 2021, the currency is color-coded to represent individual migrants’ motivations for undertaking the arduous journey from Central America to the United States. Pieces of the tapestry can also be digitally scanned to reveal more details about individual migrants’ lives, showcasing the deep layers of the data in

ways that allow its human facets to surface.

The Motivational Tapestry is a keystone in the CDDL exhibition and website Distance Unknown, a groundbreaking data collection and visualization project developed in partnership with the WFP and the Migration Policy Institute that communicates the root causes of migration through interactive, human-centered design. Beyond its success at presenting complex data in ways that captivate a broader audience, the CDDL’s approach also has led to understanding from new angles. “In the data, we found that migrants spend $2.2 billion collectively to migrate from Central America to the U.S.,” explains Ashley Louie, CDDL research associate. “Figuring out a way to visualize this information allows you to dive into the heart of migration motivations, such as the cost implications and the more complex

issues that surround this topic beyond just a simple flow of people.”

The impact of Distance Unknown has also been felt on an international scale. The exhibition debuted in the summer of 2022 at the United Nations headquarters in Rome, where the Motivational Tapestry was presented alongside other visualizations, including an interactive map that highlights the journeys and barriers to migrants’ journeys through the dangerous Darién Gap region of Central America. “The Data Tapestry allowed a lot of people to get out of the normal conversations they have around migration— ambassadors that don’t typically talk to each other were having conversations,” notes Sarah Williams, director of CDDL and lead designer of the exhibition. “By allowing a dialogue to open up and be less defensive, art allows us to understand and conceptualize an issue from a different vantage point.”

the human stories in migration data
Distance Unknown presents Motivational Tapestry (opposite), a woven 15-by-8-foot piece printed with information about migration, alongside other visual elements like an interactive map that details the journeys of migrants.


DLR Group

Finding a future for mass timber in hospitality

“Timber for the masses” is how DLR Group describes its Hospitality Prototype. Unlike “mass timber,” which has in recent years become a more common phrase among those working in the sustainable building industry, the material is less known for being an accessible solution—a perception that the firm aims to change. Widely known for its use of mass timber in office design, DLR Group made an urgent but challenging pivot, reorienting its expertise to create a prototype for building in a sector where the material has yet to see its full potential realized: the hotel industry.

“There is a little trepidation in the market, since it’s a newer type of superstructure,” explains Stephen Cavanaugh, DLR Group design leader. “Commonly you build a hotel out of concrete or steel, so that’s probably the first challenge you bump up against in conversations with development

companies about doing something new, different, and sustainable.” Maximizing the ecofriendly advantages and aesthetics of mass timber was important to the firm—and added another layer to the project. “We wanted to keep the timber exposed to meet our sustainability goal, using fewer materials like gypsum wallboard where we could avoid it, to lower the carbon impact of the building,” says B. Sanborn, design research leader. “The wood grain also has natural patterns that people associate with hominess and warmth, so we wanted to use it as a design feature.”

To develop a mass timber prototype that dispels some of the concerns specific to the hospitality industry, DLR Group undertook a cross-disciplinary research initiative that involved designers, engineers, developers, hoteliers, federal bodies, and educators; the top concerns they found were sound,

structure, and safety. Bringing in the expertise of acousticians, the group was able to find a combination of structural, wall, and connection details to meet hoteliers’ standards for sound. The group’s fire modeling demonstrated that the prototype could meet performance codes. A 2021 update to the International Building Code for timber structures also allows the prototype to be scaled similarly to steel-frame hotels at a comparable price point.

The Hospitality Prototype’s greatest accomplishment may be that it enables us to see the future for design in this industry. “It allows us to look at our goals around the materials, the mechanical systems, and all of these parts and pieces that for us come together to make one building that’s responsible on as many levels as possible,” says Sanborn. “I think this is just the start of that conversation.”

DLR Group created its Hospitality Prototype to demonstrate mass timber’s potential in the hospitality industry and address concerns about the material’s ability to meet hotel safety and sound standards.

NOTEWORTHY Dolores Hayden


Long before it became safe transportation, aviation thrilled Americans as entertainment. I created the persona poems in Exuberance around the voices of daring young fliers.

Beginning around 1910, Lincoln Beachey, Betty Scott, Harriet Quimby, Ormer Locklear, Clyde Pangborn, and Ruth Law made headlines as they performed aerial stunts in fragile biplanes made of wood, cloth, and wire. The flying fields the pilots established outside major cities drew crowds for air circuses, and fliers often sold tickets for airplane rides after the show.

Americans could glimpse urban expansion from ferryboats, trains, streetcars, and automobiles, but a ride in a two-seat biplane like the Curtiss Jenny dazzled: Unlike other modes of transportation, a passenger could eye a metropolitan region all the way from the city center to the rural edge.

Urban historian and poet Dolores Hayden was awarded the 2022 Vincent Scully Prize by the National Building Museum. Professor of architecture, urbanism, and American studies at Yale University, now emerita, she is the author of Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth (Pantheon, 2003) and Exuberance: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2019).

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