Innovations in Design and Development
The global recession and result- The most innovative built proj- scale than previously attempted,
Ten examples of projects that ing slowdown in construction pro- ects may not necessarily look futur- in forging unusual partnerships,
rethink standard building types vide an opportunity for architects, istic. They may not even represent and in getting the project built to
planners, engineers, developers, previously unheard-of strategies. prove it can be done.
and construction techniques, financers, and other professionals Sometimes the greatest creativity
to rethink standard practices and lies simply in applying best prac- Ron nyRen is a freelance architecture and urban
employ atypical public/private accelerate the rate of innovation in tices in a new way or on a larger design writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
partnerships—and push the the real estate development indus-
try. Such acceleration is desperately
sustainability envelope. needed to meet the challenges
ahead. Densifying cities while
enhancing livability and affordabil-
ity, funding essential public services
such as high-quality libraries and
schools, and affordably introduc-
ing the greenest design strategies
possible into existing and new
buildings, communities, and infra-
structure are all essential steps in
the effort to cope with rising urban
populations and climate change.
2. 1. Cellophane House
PrototyPe shown in new york City
Cellophane House offers one paradigm for the future of mass-pro-
duced yet customizable housing. As conceived by Philadelphia-
based architecture firm KieranTimberlake, the home has floors,
ceilings, and other components that are fabricated off site. The
recycled and recyclable construction materials are bolted rather
than welded to an off-the-shelf aluminum frame for easy assembly
and eventual disassembly and reuse, virtually eliminating con-
struction waste. Houses can be readily customized with different
materials and interior floor plans.
The high-performance building skin consists of Kieran-
Timberlake’s NextGen SmartWrap, which sandwiches air
between an outer layer of transparent plastic—laminated with
thin-film photovoltaic cells—and an inner layer of plastic film.
Cellophane House was assembled in 16 days at New York
City’s Museum of Modern Art for last year’s exhibit on modern
prefabricated housing; five architects were commissioned to
create commercially viable housing prototypes. Although Cello-
phane House looks to the future, KieranTimberlake has several
designs for prefabricated housing already available from Santa
Monica, California–based manufacturer LivingHomes.
3. 2. citizenM Hotel
amsterDam, the netherLanDs
Manufactured dwelling space is not limited to individual housing. For each citizenM Hotel, only
the ground floor is built on-site with conventional methods; the modular rooms are assembled at
the company’s own off-site factory, shipped to the destination, and stacked. The approach speeds
the building process and cuts down on construction waste. The cost savings allow the citizenM
company, based in Voorschoten, Netherlands, to charge low room rates and still provide high-end
materials and amenities; for example, it has partnered with the luxury firm Vitra for its furniture.
Each hotel room is 151 square feet (14 sq m) and includes a king-sized bed. To make efficient
use of space and maximize natural light, the design dispenses with walled-off bathrooms;
instead, each room’s shower and toilet is enclosed in its own glass cylinder within the main
space. (See “Hospitality Going Green,” February, page 54.) The first citizenM opened last year
with 230 rooms at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport; the second opened this year in the Amster-
dam city center with 215 rooms. Some 20 additional citizenM hotels are scheduled to open in
various European capital cities over the next five years. Concrete Architectural Associates of
Amsterdam is the designer.
4. 3. Green Alleys
Alleys may not be glamorous, but they are important parts of a city’s infrastructure—
and they add significantly to stormwater runoff. Chicago has 3,500 acres (1,400 ha)
of alleys, many unconnected to the city’s combined sewer and stormwater system.
The city’s department of transportation created its Green Alley program to stop the
flooding of buildings near alleys, as well as to attain benefits of sustainability.
Developed with Hitchcock Design Group of Naperville, Illinois, the program
started in 2006 and uses a variety of alley surface designs, which include pervi-
ous paving to allow rainwater to permeate the ground; light-colored surfaces to
mitigate the heat-island effect by reflecting sunlight; incorporation of recycled
©hiTchcocK Design group
materials such as recycled concrete aggregate, steel slag, and ground tire rubber
to reduce resource use; and energy-efficient light fixtures to reduce light pollution.
More than 80 alleys have been transformed as of the end of last year.
5. 4. Idea Stores
As libraries move into the 21st century, they are redefining their role
in an increasingly digital society. The Idea Stores represent an unusual
model, offering not only traditional library services, but also more than
1,000 classes in areas such as career training, health and fitness, and
In the late 1990s, the London borough of Tower Hamlets, one of the
city’s most economically challenged boroughs, had more libraries per
capita than its inner-city counterparts, but the most rapid decline in
their use. The Tower Hamlets Council surveyed residents and found they
wanted modern facilities with a wider range of services. Since 2002, the
council has opened four Idea Stores, one inside a Canary Wharf mall.
The flagship is Idea Store Whitechapel, designed by London’s Adjaye
Associates. Its colored-glass cube highlights the accessibility, transpar-
Tower hamleTs council
ency, and contemporary nature of the concept. Funds for the facilities
came from council money, donations, grants, and partnerships with corpo-
rations such as Lloyds of London and the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain.
6. 5. Orthopaedic Hospital High School
Los angeLes, CaLifornia
Faced with significant overcrowding in its school facili-
ties, the Los Angeles Unified School District had a lot
of ground to make up when voters approved state
bond measures for school construction between 1997
and 2003. Because land to build new campuses was
scarce and expensive, the district adopted high-density
design strategies, plus entered into public/private
partnerships, not only to make use of shared land, but
also to provide enhanced educational opportunities.
Designed by R.L. Binder Architecture & Planning of
Playa Del Rey, California, Orthopaedic Hospital High
School opened in 2004, as did eight other new schools.
.l. binDer archiTecTure & planning
The 850-student medical magnet school shares the
site with Orthopaedic Hospital, a private hospital that
donated a portion of the high school’s 4.27-acre (1.7-ha)
campus to the district. The partnership also provides
students with the chance to learn from the hospital’s
staff and engage in internships.
7. 6. Poly International Plaza
The construction boom in China, combined with
the country’s willingness to embrace unusual
design strategies, has resulted in a number of
distinctive buildings. Poly International Plaza, a
mixed-use office and retail complex designed
for Poly Real Estate Group of Guangzhou, repre-
sents an outside-the-box approach to both sus-
tainability and building safety. The site, located
on the Pearl River, occupies a seismically sensi-
tive area that is also subject to high summer
temperatures and typhoon winds.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of San Fran-
cisco and the Guangzhou Design Institute
created a pair of 35-story office towers that
rely on diagonal braces on the south facades,
a design that allows use of column-free floor
plates for unimpeded river views; the bracing
also shades the interiors from solar heat gain.
Each tower has a three-story opening at its
midpoint to reduce wind loads and provide a
large outdoor terrace. The structural frame’s
efficient design reduced the amount of steel
required by 15 percent, reducing construction
costs. Other sustainable strategies include
natural ventilation and narrow floor plates
that maximize daylight penetration.
8. 7. ROAR One
VanCoUVer, british CoLUmbia, CanaDa
ROAR One represents an exploration of higher-
density urban housing, avoiding the standardized
spatial layouts of typical condominiums to address
the varied lifestyles and household structures of
contemporary city dwellers. Local architecture firms
LWPAC Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture
Inc. and Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden Associated
Architects organized ROAR One as two volumes
bisected by a long internal courtyard and perforated
by slots that create continuous open spaces from
front to back. Large inset patios provide each dwell-
ing with its own sheltered outdoor space.
The ten two-story units—six live/work spaces and
four penthouses, ranging from 800 to 1,000 square
feet (74 to 93 sq m)—have flexible interiors support-
ing a variety of configurations. Floor-to-ceiling glaz-
ing and operable windows provide plenty of natural
light and air; residents can adjust large exterior slid-
ing screens to shade themselves or create privacy.
The project was completed in 2006 for Vancouver-
based ROAR Ventures Ltd.
9. 8. Serenbe
In rural Chattahoochee Hill Country, 32 miles (52 km)
south of Atlanta, an unusually green community is
taking shape. Former restaurateur and local landowner
Steve Nygren bought 900 acres (364 ha) adjacent to
his property to keep it from falling prey to city sprawl.
He and other landowners got zoning laws changed
for the 40,000-acre (16,000-ha) region to require that
80 percent of the land be preserved as green space
through a transfer of development rights program.
With master planning by local planner Phillip
Tabb, Nygren and others created on Nygren’s land
the 220-home Serenbe, three hamlets fitted into
the terrain for low environmental impact, with all
dwellings certified as sustainable by EarthCraft
House, the area’s residential green building pro-
gram. Included in the project are live/work units,
townhouses, cottages, and estate homes. Architec-
tural diversity—including contemporary design—is
encouraged, and the number of homes is limited to
220, of which half have been built to date. The site
also includes a 25-acre (10-ha) organic farm, com-
mercial tenants, and restaurants.
10. 9. UniverCity
bUrnaby, british CoLUmbia, CanaDa
In the 1990s, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British
Columbia, transferred more than 790 acres (320 ha) of open
space to the city of Burnaby for conservation in exchange for
permission to develop a 4,536-unit residential community,
UniverCity, on 161 acres (65 ha) adjacent to the university’s
mountaintop campus. A 25-minute drive from downtown
Vancouver, the site is on the city’s rapid transit system and
several bus routes. Zoning bylaws require green building
practices for all new developments, with density bonuses
for those that go beyond the minimum green standards.
All dwellings at UniverCity are multifamily residences, both
townhouses and apartments, including 60 units sold at 20
percent below-market rates to faculty and staff. Zoning bylaws
also allow apartments to have secondary suites that can be
John benTley/sfu communiTy TrusT
rented out separately—an affordable option particularly well
suited for students. The Cornerstone, a mixed-use building,
has neighborhood-serving retail space, and an elementary
school is under construction. About 2,500 residents currently
live in UniverCity of a projected total of 10,000 at buildout.
UniverCity was one of ten winners of ULI’s 2009 Awards for Excellence: The Americas competition.
11. 10. Vauxhall Cross Interchange
In the Vauxhall area of London, transit passengers often had
to dash across a busy highway to transfer between different
modes of transportation. Arup’s London office designed for
the government agency Transport for London a new transporta-
tion interchange to knit the transit modes together, enhance
safety, and serve as a landmark to stimulate regeneration. Six
highway lanes were reduced to four, freeing up room for the
arup associaTes/chrisTian richTers
Vauxhall Cross Interchange, a multimodal facility that connects
buses, the London Underground (subway), and the rail system,
while providing safer passage for pedestrians and cyclists.
Opened in 2005, the facility’s most innovative feature is its
distinctive canopy—a 655-foot- (200-m-) long ribbon of stain-
less steel that dips over each bus stand to shelter passengers;
at the northern end, the ribbon rises up in twin cantilevers,
marking the interchange’s location. The 20-degree slope also
positions the high-efficiency, building-integrated photovoltaics
on the cantilever surfaces for maximum solar power genera-
tion, providing 30 percent of the electricity for the facility,
which is open day and night. UL
arup associaTes/chrisTian richTers