Welcome, Architect magazine readers! And to the staff of Architect, many thanks as well.
For a sampling of recent posts on this site, personal favorites and otherwise, use this list as your guide. For those unfamiliar with Architect, here's a few articles from recent months that are definitely worth your attention:
- With coffee giant Starbucks at economic loose ends and wondering how to remake itself, five teams of designers contribute their visions for the coffee shop of the future to the July 2008 issue. What does the "third place" of the 21st century look like?
At left: the logo of "*$," Pentagram Architects' vision for the future of the chain, which the firm imagines as no longer "homemade and local" but rather streamlined, "efficient and universal:"
No more cups and mugs for sale, no more music CDs (which was and should be a separate business), no more coffee machines and bagged beans, no more decorative bric-a-brac. Just coffee, food, service, newspapers and the aroma of coffee.
All the accessories belong online, not in a store, which can now be smaller, more efficient and act like a food space, not a sales space.
In the end it’s a simple tale:
Like Elvis, who was distracted by ten years of movies and other indulgences, Starbucks has lost its soul. Like Prince, who even stopped performing in order to regain legal control of his music, Starbucks needs to reinvent itself to remain true to the original mission: a great product served in a dedicated environment to a loyal customer.
- The June 2008 issue's visit to the Arizona town of Buckeye, a Phoenix suburb projected to grow from its current population of 25,000 to 400,000 in the next 25 years. The town is fighting to grow itself sensibly, despite the breakneck pace and the unbelievable scale:
The town hasn't a moment to lose. Last year, Forbes magazine listed Buckeye as the second-fastest-growing suburb in the nation (after Lincoln, Calif., outside Sacramento). Between 2000 and 2005, Buckeye's population increased by nearly 200 percent, to 25,406....Over the past several years, the town of Buckeye has annexed 370 square miles of this land into its corporate limits, and its total planning area, which it intends to annex eventually, measures 598 square miles, which is larger than Phoenix. From its northernmost corporate limit to its southernmost, Buckeye runs about 45 miles long. From east to west, it is 24 miles wide.
Above: Buckeye, at the edge of the Phoenix metro. There is a strong aesthetic dimension running through the planning of all that space:
The real estate frenzy has slowed down somewhat lately in Buckeye. A new Target and Home Depot near Verrado are on hold. But a big retail hub, called Sundance Towne Center, has opened next to the new Sundance community along I-10 between Watson and Yuma roads. A 75-acre tract that Google's map shows as a graded site has a Wal-Mart, a Lowe's, a Linens 'n Things (the company filed for bankruptcy in April), two banks, an OfficeMax, a Peter Piper Pizza, a Brakes Plus, and an AutoZone.
People in Buckeye need this sort of stuff. (They also need police and fire protection in far-flung sections, which they are getting in a system of sturdy, temporary stations dotting the area.) The town wants them to have it but also wants to temper the way these businesses typically look, which is ugly. So the planners are putting their prerogatives in writing.
Last year, Buckeye's town council adopted a set of design rules for newly built commercial and industrial buildings. They're currently being refined to fit into the new development code. At heart, the rules are critical of common suburban shopping development. They tell developers to be nicer to the roadside, with more texture and articulation in their buildings than they usually offer, and to consider surrounding landscapes more carefully. There's a palette of approved materials—brick, stone, stucco, and wood, among others. The rules proscribe massive asphalt parking lots. They suggest that developers throw in some benches, kiosks, and trees and make their buildings look like something besides cash cows.
- In the March 2008 issue, noted architectural critic and author Joan Ockman chronicles the current wave of famous architects acting in masterplanning roles from New York to Abu Dhabi to Bulgaria, posing a crucial question: is a new form of urbanism, touched by the celebrity of famous architects such as Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind, emerging?
Famous architects are no longer just in the business of designing signature buildings. They are also increasingly functioning as megascale planners, hand in glove with the biggest developers in the world and with local municipalities, usually with both....Historically at odds, architecture and urban planning have found a rapprochement today on the terrain of high-profile, large-scale real estate development.
This is the "Bilbao effect" at an grossly inflated scale, Ockman argues.
In this context, the current trend toward rebranding celebrity architects as planners appears as both an evolution of the Bilbao effect, expanded to a new scale, and also a departure from it. From the developer's point of view, the decision to use “ ‘design architects' instead of ‘developer architects,' “ as Ratner has put it of his decision to engage Gehry for the Brooklyn project, genuinely seems to be motivated to some extent, at least in the most laudable cases, by a desire to overcome past mediocrity. Above all, though, it is a bid for name-brand cachet and market differentiation.