RIOS announces launch of London office, and more

Happy Election Day! Below you’ll find just a few notable news items to help get you up to speed before you head out to the polls—that is, if you haven’t voted already.

While the wide-ranging consequences of today’s crucial midterm election—perhaps the significant in modern history given that democracy as we know it is very much on the ballot—might not come into clear focus for weeks or months, we’ll be tracking any and all potential impacts on the built environment including housing, transportation, and more. Please take care tonight.

RIOS expands into Europe with opening of London office

Los Angeles–headquartered multidisciplinary design collective RIOS is expanding its international reach into Europe with the opening of a new office in the Spitalfields district of London’s East End. The office is led by Design Director Paul Westwood, formerly project leader with Heatherwick Studio. “London is my home and coincidentally home to the best developers in the world,” said Westwood in a statement. “I’m thrilled to bring RIOS design excellence to the U.K. audience and showcase our talents in community-led and forward-thinking architecture.”

While RIOS, renamed from Rios Clementi Hale (RCH) Studios following the departure of Julie Smith-Clementi and Frank Clementi in early 2020, will retain its solid Southern California roots, the new London office is the latest major maneuver to come during a remarkable growth trajectory coming out of the pandemic. In addition to L.A. HQ, RIOS also maintains offices in Boulder, Austin, Singapore, and Portland, Oregon.

“Our efforts to grow our practice globally are aligned with our ambitions to design bold and attuned spaces, especially in markets that value innovative and ambitious design,” said RIOS co-CEO Jessamyn Davis. “The pandemic heightened our interest in expanding our team, and London is an incredible melting pot of cultures, history, and contexts from all over the world. We are excited to bring our unique approach to interdisciplinary design to a new audience.”

Recent RIOS projects profiled by AN reflect the practice’s discipline-spanning approach and include Palm Springs Downtown Park, the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine in L.A., and the recently unveiled forthcoming transformation of Hollywood’s Television Center complex.

two men look at an architectural model
Paul Westwood, London-based architect and design director with RIOS, with project designer Josh Jenje on the right. (Courtesy RIOS)

USC School of Architecture launches new platform focused on equitable and sustainable design in cities

The University of Southern California School of Architecture (USC Architecture) has launched a new platform for “critical research and actionable design” that aims to “advance radical alternatives to exclusionary policies and extractive practices that shape our cities today.” Entitled the Center for City Design, the new platform is led by director Faiza Moatasim, assistant professor of Architecture in Urbanism and Urban Design.

City Design is envisioned as an “alternative to conventional top-down master planning” that “allows the deliberate and coherent incorporation of issues of social and spatial justice as well as environmental and community resilience.”

“The Center will pursue opportunities for collaboration between USC faculty, design practitioners, and local communities whose voices and expertise are normally unheard in the design and decision-making processes,” explained Moatasim in a statement. “This is an important feature of our work as we seek to address various aspects of city design from local expertise and that come from everyday lived experiences.”

As detailed in a press announcement, the Center will support research effort under four core initiatives—Urban Futures, Urban Humanities, Housing Justice, and Urban Reparations—that foster “speculative, inter- and multi-disciplinary thinking to understand and address complex challenges related to the equitable and sustainable design and development of cities.”

You can read more about the Center for City Design and its framework here. Relatedly, USC Architecture also recently a new 1-year postgraduate STEM program, the Master of Advanced Architectural Research Studies (M.AARS), offering concentrations in City Design + Housing (CDH) or Performative Design + Technology (PDT). Applications for the Fall 2023 cohort of the program, led by director Alvin Huang, are now open.

Detroit’s uni-directional wonder, the People Mover, starts collecting fares again

The Detroit People Mover (DPM), an elevated automated transit system that glides counterclockwise along a one-way loop through the fast-changing downtown core of Motor City,  again began collecting fares on October 31. The Detroit Transportation Corporation, the city agency that operates the DPM, had temporarily lifted the .75 cent fee required to ride the system coming out an extended closure coming out of the pandemic to help bolster ridership among tourists and downtown office workers. First debuting in 1987, the DPM’s circuitous route is just under 3 miles in length and stops at 13 public art–filled stations including the Renaissance Center, Greektown, Broadway, and the Financial District.

When the DMP resumed operations this past May after being shuttered for over two years due to the COVID crisis, more than half of the stations remained closed. As of this writing, 10 of the 13 stations are now open (Bricktown, Cadillac Center, and Times Square remain closed) and Sunday service has not resumed. In addition to .75 cent single rides for adults, monthly and annual passes are available.

While the DMP experiences heavy usage during major sporting events (i.e. Super Bowl XL) and when large conventions are town, the system has been subject to fierce criticism and ridicule over the years for its high operational costs and low ridership numbers amongst locals.

H/t to Urbanize Detroit

Bushwick on track to get its first historic landmark district

While a lot can be said about Bushwick, conversations about the neighborhood in the northernmost stretches of Brooklyn generally don’t tend to revolve around historic architecture. That, however, is changing as Bushwick could soon gain its very first Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)–designated historic district. The proposed district in question is a stretch of Linden Street between Broadway and Bushwick Avenue populated by 32 brick and brownstone row houses built between 1885 and 1901. Lining both sides of the street, the strikingly preserved residential structures represent an attractive assemblage of late-19th century architectural styles including Renaissance-Revival, Neo-Grec, and, perhaps most notably, Queen Anne.

“It’s jaw dropping. One wonders how many more areas in our city lurk out there with this quality of architecture. It’s really astounding,” Brownstoner reported LPC commissioner Fred Bland as saying during a meeting held last week.

Following an unanimous vote to revisit the proposed district, the LPC will host a public hearing in the near future, which will be followed by another vote.

H/t to Brownstoner

Turner Construction Company emphasizes commitment to abolish forced labor in the AEC industry

Earlier this month, Turner Construction Company hosted a one-day summit in which the New York–headquartered construction giant, joined by 45 industry leaders representing 18 major players in the AEC field, shared its vision for a more robust sustainability strategy that includes a reinforced commitment to working alongside the New Canaan, Connecticut–based Grace Farms Foundation’s Design for Freedom initiative as a key partner in eradicating modern slavery practices in the building materials supply chain.

“This Summit is an integral part of a broad strategy to expand the definition of sustainability in our company that is informed by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. This strategy is directly connected to our culture of active caring for people and the planet,” said Tom Reilly, Executive Vice President of Turner of the ESG  Sustainability Summit, which was facilitated by Deloitte.

“Turner’s commitment to Design for Freedom is vertically galvanizing the AEC industry globally which is what it takes to first expand awareness and then eliminate forced labor from the building materials supply chain,” added Sharon Prince, CEO of Grace Farms and founder of Design For Freedom.

Among those joining Turner and Grace Farms/Design for Freedom at the summit were a diverse range of participants including leading architecture firms NBBJ and FXCollaborative, 169-year-old elevator and escalator developer/manufacturer/installer Otis, and steelmaker Nucor. You can learn more here about Design for Freedom, a growing movement that late AN cofounder and editor-in-chief Bill Menking served a key early role in the formation of. Earlier this year, Design for Freedom unveiled its first-ever international project in the form of Black Chapel, the 21st annual Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Chicago-based artist and urbanist Theaster Gates with architectural support from Adjaye Associates. Design for Freedom served as Responsible Materials Advisor on the high-profile commission at Kensington Gardens, London.

Work set to resume on delay-plagued Harbor Bridge in South Texas following summer shutdown

With work coming to a grinding halt earlier this summer due to safety concerns stemming from significant design flaws, construction work will soon resume at the Harbor Bridge, a $1 billion project in Corpus Christi, Texas, that is slated to be both the longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States and the tallest structure in South Texas, with its main span stretching 1,661 feet and main tower topping out at 538 feet. The new bridge replaces an aging bridge that’s carried U.S. 181 across the Corpus Christi Ship Canal since the 1950s.

Initially expected to open to traffic in 2020, the massive infrastructure project is now slated for completion in 2025 following a series of considerable delays and the 2020 firing of  FIGG Bridge Engineering, the project’s original engineer of record, and subsequent hiring of Arup and Carlos Fernandez Casado SL (CFC) as the project’s new design engineer.

H/t to Construction Dive

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