Palaces for the People cover. Image courtesy Penguin Random House. On the same day I received Palaces for the People to review, I wandered through the Carnegie Library Downtown & Business on my lunch hour. A whiteboard faced the front door advertising the month’s events. Book clubs, reading lists, support groups. Men and women in suits mingled with the less well-heeled to browse the new book tables and utilize the free WiFi. In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg (who also authored a previous work of social history chronicling the Chicago heat wave of 1995 that inspired this book) advocates for stronger “social infrastructure,” of which the library is a prime example. The author defines social infrastructure as “the physical...
Palaces for the People
How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life
By Emily Pierson-Brown, AIA Posted on September 12, 2019
The Many Meanings of Architecture
By F. Jeffrey Murray, FAIA Posted on July 11, 2019
Mount Angel Abbey Library in Saint Benedict, Oregon. Alvar Aalto, 1970 There have been many definitions of ‘architecture’; mostly written by and for architects. What matters to me is what non-architects think of architecture. Over my nearly five decades in architecture (education plus practice), I’ve recognized five fundamental definitions or meanings of architecture held by non-architects. Architecture as consumer product; about style, fashion, and entertainment (embraced by most media, and most media influenced public, and I suspect most of the public are deeply media influenced). Architecture as real estate; an investment product (embraced by real estate brokers, developers, investors, business media and most building owners). Architecture as useful tool; minimal functional shelter (embraced by many builders, engineers, and facility managers)....
“I Like an Arch”
Review of You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn
By Robert Bailey, AIA Posted on May 7, 2019
Image courtesy Macmillan Several biographies of Louis Kahn have been written in the 21st century, but Wendy Lesser’s may be the most compelling. Lesser, a writer, critic and editor in the arts, founded the literary magazine The Threepenny Review, and has published both fiction and nonfiction. Lesser authored Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets, a narrative in which the quartets guide the reader through the composer’s life The Life of Louis Kahn is her first book with an architectural subject. Kahn’s story is interspersed with chapters describing what it’s like to visit five of his greatest buildings: Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Kimbell Art Museum, Phillips Exeter Library, National Assembly Building of Bangladesh, and Indian Institute of...
Great Design is Not a Finite Resource
A Review of John Cary's Design for Good
By Robert Bailey, AIA Posted on March 28, 2018
This is a book about stories – remarkable stories –that are primarily about people and secondarily about satisfying design projects. The stories tell us of projects that came to fruition because people had the will to make them happen. We learn about architects who realized that their mission is designing for social justice. We discover the individuals engaged in nonprofit or nongovernmental agency work that the designers have partnered with in moving these projects forward. Most importantly, we learn about people who have been directly affected by the projects described in the stories. Author John Cary is an architect by training and an advocate for architecture born of, and contributing, to social change. Cary is also a writer and speaker...
Is Wellness Design the New Sustainable Design?
A Review of Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes our Lives
By F. Jeffrey Murray, FAIA Posted on August 18, 2017
Image courtesy Harper Collins Sarah Williams Goldhagen’s new book, written for the general public more so than the design community, is timely, important and worth a careful read by design professionals. Her fundamental claim is summarized in the preface: “What the new paradigm of embodied or situated cognition reveals is that the built environment and its design matters far, far more than anybody, even architects, ever thought that it did.” (p. xiv) Her book is timely because in the last couple years we’ve seen new checklists and scorecards for ‘wellness’ design (14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, The Well Building Standard, Fitwell — to name a few). Wellness design appears to be a trendy term for what has traditionally been called...
Lessons in Human Nature
Anne Swager's 27 Years with AIA Pittsburgh
By Becky Spevack Posted on June 21, 2017
Anne Swager, Hon. AIA has been called many things – progressive, outspoken, ballsy, an ally, a foe, compassionate, cheerleader, easily distracted, thinker of big ideas. And for the past 27 years, she’s also been called Executive Director of AIA Pittsburgh. With Anne’s recent retirement on June 5th we are re-running this inspiring interview with then-editor Becky Spevack. Best of luck in your future travels Anne! Columns: First things first, did you ever expect to be at the AIA this long, to make a career out of it? Anne Swager: No, absolutely not! I never thought I would be around this long. You know, my mom used to say she thought I’d become an architect but my kindergarten teacher spent the...
Creativity in the Architectural Design Process
How We Make Sense of the Many Tools That Are Available in Today's Profession
By Ilana Gutierrez, Assoc. AIA and Collaborators Posted on March 13, 2017
Technology has fundamentally changed the way we work and think within the architectural world. I have spoken with many architects at different levels in their career to understand how technology, hand drawing, and other conventions play a role in the design process and the effective communication of architectural ideas. Through these conversations with principals, directors, and collaborators at Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, I have learned that there should be a constant dialogue between all creative conventions of design such as hand drawing, physical modeling or computer programs to enhance the architectural design process rather than allowing creative tools to shape us. The approach to architectural education teaches us to problem solve using creative tools. Drawing from my experience, the first year...
And the Winner is … Affordability
A Juror Highlights Affordable Projects from the 2017 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture
By Bea Spolidoro, AIA Posted on February 15, 2017
Each year AIA National the 2017 Architecture program celebrates the best contemporary architecture regardless of budget, size, style, or type. These stunning projects show the world the range of outstanding work architects create and highlight the many ways buildings and spaces can improve our lives. Here are four 2017 winners highlighted by Pittsburgh’s own Bea Spolidoro, AIA who was invited to participate on this year’s jury. Last summer, I was invited to be a juror for the 2017 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture with other eight professionals. The jury typically features architect members of the AIA and one non-architect, acting as an allied professional and client representative. At the time, I was serving as the Associate AIA member of the...
New Year, Old Face
What's Old is New Again
By Maya Henry Posted on December 28, 2016
Here at AIA Pittsburgh we are ringing in the new year with a new editor at Columns (you may have read that Becky Spevack signed off to devote herself full-time to her bacon-making business). I’m Maya Henry and I worked here from 2001-2006 when I left to pursue my degree in Historic Preservation Planning. It was working at AIA Pittsburgh and meeting so many passionate architects and designers that got me excited about historic preservation, and I was proud to have the support and mentorship of many of you as I made the decision to attend Cornell. While pursuing my degree I had many opportunities, including leading a trip to Pittsburgh for the whole Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell,...
To Be Licensed
"Why quit before the finish line?"
By Lee Calisti, AIA Posted on May 3, 2016
I want you to know, I’ve avoided this for years. Time’s up. There’s something in the air these days. There seems to be a belief growing that becoming licensed as an architect is optional or even unnecessary. A thought exists that there needs to be irrefutable value clearly demonstrated in bullet points on a highway billboard for candidates to consider pursuing it after they’ve completed their education. If this is you, you are asking the wrong question. It’s axiomatic. Why is getting a license even a question? Every time this issue arises, I try to listen and be empathetic. I helped start AIA Pittsburgh’s YAF in 1996 for goodness sake – I’m an advocate for emerging professionals. I’ve taught hundreds...