Defining Architectural Design Excellence: an AIA Committee on Design Conference, Columbus, Indiana, April, 2012 By John Morris Dixon, FAIA
March 2, 2013
The Committee on Design visited Columbus, Indiana in April, 2012. Click here to read the conference report written by John Morris Dixon, FAIA. Photos courtesy of Jim Childress, FAIA, Ann Thompson and Aaron Trahan.
February 3, 2013
In April, 2012, about 120 members of the Committee on Design went to Columbus, Indiana for our spring conference. Together we explored the architecture of the community, talked with many of the architects who designed the projects, and met with citizens who have been active in championing modern architecture. We also discussed and considered how to measure design excellence. The following film was created by Boaz Ashkenazy and his crew at Studio216 as an overview of what we saw and experienced.
For a guide of the projects we saw, and the people we met, please see the Committee on Design to Columbus, Indiana here.
September 11, 2012
By Aaron Trahan, Committee On Design Spring 2012 Conference Knowledge Scholar
“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”
As the Fall Conference approaches, it is important to remember where we left off this Spring in Columbus. One of the consensus’ that we was that context matters in design excellence. I found this quote from Eliel Saarinen particularly relevant to this topic because it seems so obvious, and yet there are buildings in all of our cities, towns and neighborhoods that somehow miss this fundamental principal.
The modernist additions to downtown Columbus truly embodied a consistent sense of scale, and a natural progression from the residential neighborhoods, to the community buildings, and to the retail center. Living in Boston, with such beautiful historic buildings, I always imagined what our neighborhoods would look like if the only structures breaking above the canopy lines of the trees were public buildings, such as churches, town halls, and courthouses. I imagine there would be a higher quality of civic discourse prevalent when you could find your way to a public meetingplace by just looking up, and knowing where to go by distinguishing the design of each tower.
Architecture, in this sense, has the ability to prioritize and foster community. Columbus has a unique character in its urban planning, which is applicable today in neighborhoods of a similar scale. Hopefully, as young architects focus on community design, buildings that serve a public function will be given greater architectural presence.
November 16, 2011
We began the first day of the COD Japan conference with two lectures, held on the 45th floor of the Mori Building at Roppongi Hills, designed by KPF. It was a great vantage point to look down on buildings visited in the last few days. The first lecture was by Masami Kobayashi of Meiji University. The title of his talk was Japan & the Tohoku Rebuilding Efforts.
Professor Kobayashi described how Tokyo had grown through centuries of what can only be called calamities– wars, fires, and earthquakes. Parts of the city were damaged or destroyed and then rebuilt. The city, therefore, has the texture of many eras of development layered on top of one another, creating a weaving of old and new, dense development and open space. He described it as a ‘salami pizza city’.
He went on to describe the enormous damage caused in eastern Japan by the recent (March, 2011) earthquake and tsunami. In helping with the reconstruction of the coastal towns destroyed by the tsunami he was finding a unique role for architects. The key, long-term issues are where and how to restore the communities that were destroyed. One key issue he and others are struggling with is that if you build a sea wall high enough to protect a community, you separate them from their key asset, the sea. The other key issue is a tsunami often destroys part of a community (the part lowest and closest to the ocean), leaving developments further back or on hillsides unharmed. The challenge arises in how to integrate sections of rebuilt areas with the older surviving ones.
Through charettes, his team of students and faculty are working to find alternate solutions. One idea is to raise the land; sounds simpler than it probably is. Another idea is to redevelop the low land but provide clear and easy paths out for people, i.e., lose buildings in future tsunamis but not lives. Yet another solution explored how to break a sea wall into sections that would break up waves yet provide views. I was impresses that his group was working toward real solutions to complex, community-oriented issues. The quality of life obtained in the end for the inhabitants, the fabric of the community, was equally as important as the civil engineering solution to the problem.
The second lecture follows….
Jim Childress FAIA