January 2011 newsletter
Export Architecture: Even Small American Firms Look Overseas to Survive
Think America imports too much from around the world? Well, many architecture firms are tipping the balance by exporting their expertise for design projects overseas.
Designing buildings in foreign countries is certainly nothing new, but American firms have pursued international work much more aggressively since the recession hammered the U.S. market. And it’s not just the giant firms reaching overseas. Consider the Archiventure Group a four-person, Denver-based firm that specializes in resorts and golf clubs. Work is slow in Denver, so now the firm is designing a golf resort in India.
Medium-sized Heller-Manus Architects had no foreign work four years ago, but now does nearly half its work for Chinese clients. Among its Chinese projects is the central business district of Guangzhou.
Why are American firms finding working overseas? The answer is a combination of two factors: First, many other countries, particularly in Asia, are enjoying a building boom; and second, in many cases American architectural expertise is valued more than local knowledge.
There are several strategies to expanding internationally. Some firms partner with existing, local firms; others buy local firms; and some start their own, freestanding offices. Which strategy works depends on the country in question and the size of the firms involved.
Naturally, there are pitfalls to international work. Some firms report not getting paid promptly (who wants collection hassles 2,000 miles away?), while others struggle with local customs are regulations. And you can’t forget the travel expense! Burkett Design in Denver, which has an office in Dubai and also works in Sudan, racks up $40,000 a year in travel, founder Amy Burkett says.
Despite those issues, architecture is sure to continue as one of America’s fastest growing exports.
Space Architecture: International Not Far Enough?
Sure, lots of firms are finding work overseas, but that’s not enough for others. Space architecture the design of buildings for the moon and other planets and orbiting spacecraft–is a bona fide field with unlimited growth potential!
Consider the fact that Virgin Galactic dedicated its “spaceport” in New Mexico in October, and 390 future “astronauts” have plunked down deposits on the $200,000 tickets for few minutes of space flight. The spaceport, which is basically an ultra-modern airport, was designed by Foster + Partners in London. And Virgin Galactic is only one of many players in the field of private spaceflight–SpaceX already has NASA and Air Force contracts for its rockets and space vehicles.
Space architecture won’t stop at the spaceport, of course. Many existing projects, such as the International Space Station, contain designed living and working spaces. The future holds much more–habitations on the moon and Mars, for example. Do you think the design of such things is the stuff of science fiction lovers tinkering in the garage? Think again: The International Astronautical Congress , now in its 62nd year, had a special section titled “Space Architecture: Exploration and Tourism” in its 2010 meeting in Prague. Furthermore, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has a committee devoted to the design of the structures and living spaces related to space travel, the Space Architecture Technical Committee . “Architects and industrial designers are now fully involved in the world of space,” according to the SATC website.
Space architecture has a long history, though active participation of architects and designers began with the design of NASA’s Skylab in 1968. The engineers working on Skylab, which was an orbiting laboratory, wanted a windowless workspace; industrial designer Raymond Loewy insisted on a window so the astronauts could observe the Earth from space. Many more architects and designers worked on the International Space Station, and today a growing number of them work on all aspects of space travel, from vehicles to orbiting structures to planetary homes.
The brain is a complicated thing, and Frank Gehry’s design for the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas does the brain justice. The marvelously convoluted design makes passers by think they’re walking by the Ripley’s Believe it or Not building, but the work going on inside–on Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases–is totally believeable.
Water inspires a lot of architecture. The latest example is the London Aquatics Center , now being built for the 2012 Olympics. Designed by English architect Zaha Hadid, the building takes its swooping shape from the river beside it and the aquatics inside it. Says Hadid: “The architectural concept of the Aquatic Center is inspired by the fluid geometry of water in motion, creating spaces and a surrounding environment in sympathy with the river landscape.”
Loft apartments are popular, but the wide-open space can be intimidating. Not in the briefcase house . This loft in Chicago has a giant modular “room” that occupants can move and reform as needed. Designed by Bureau Spectacular in Chicago, the modular room is considered a “house within a house”; it’s big enough for the owner to sleep in.
AIR Graphics: We Were Green Before it Was Cool
At AIR Graphics, we have worked to minimize the environmental impact of our products since way before it was the popular thing to do. Here are some key dates in our “green” history:
In November 1994, we opened the first all plain paper reprographic center in Boston. Plain paper reprographics equipment reproduces large-format documents without the environmentally hazardous byproducts produced by traditional methods of large-format reproduction.
November 1994 created and Trademarked GREENPRINT to establish a new and accurate description of eco friendly large format printing.
In December 1995, we began recycling all of the paper in our offices.
In August 2008, we began using 30 percent post consumer recycled stock in all of our copies.
What do these initiatives mean for the environment? We expect to save each year:
4,619 pounds of waterborne waste
679,722 gallons of wastewater
75,278 pounds of solid waste
148,056 pounds of greenhouse gases
1,1333,333,333 BTU of energy
Our world is increasingly fragile, and how we use our resources is important. AIR Graphics believes strongly in our responsibility to protect the earth’s resources.
Eco- friendly banner stands.
Bamboo Banner Stand: AIR Graphics offers a green way to display presentations, the Bamboo X-Stands . These handsome, sturdy stands are made from bamboo, one of Earth’s most renewable and sustainable natural resources.
Seal in Efficiency:
Southwall Technologies and Dow Corning have partnered to create new “Heat Mirror“ film and sealants for large glass buildings. The new products create the industry’s lightest weight and most energy-efficient multi-cavity insulating glass for large projects.
Arc College Aims for Zero: The University of Utah is aiming for a zero carbon footprint in the renovation of its architecture building . The 1970s building is loaded with opportunities to improve efficiency, so the renovation will save energy and teach students green technologies.
Self-Adhesive Housewrap: WrapShield SA from VapoShield is a self-adhesive, vapor-permeable housewrap. The fact that it’s self-adhesive means many fewer fastener penetrations are required, it doesn’t flap in the wind, and it’s very airtight.
Recessed Light Covers: Slow the energy leak from canned lights by installing Tenmat fire-resistant light covers. The FF Recessed Light Protection Covers stop airflow in and out, and keep the can light away from the insulation. They are designed for CFL lights only.
News You Can Use
MIT Sesquicentennial – 150 artifacts from MIT’s 150 years of existence are on display at the MIT Museum
Student Housing: Will a student “village” come to Boston? http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/news/getting_real/?p=381
Playing Fields Funded: Braintree High School will sport two new synthetic-turf athletic fields www.patriotledger.com/news/x1290144580/Braintree-council-OKs-borrowing-for-construction-of-playing-fields
10 Best Architecture Books: Looking for something good to read? Check out this list of the best books on architecture published in 2010. www.archnewsnow.com/features/Feature345.htm
Boston’s John Hancock Tower wins AIA 25-Year Award
Kansas City Firm Wins AIA Award: BNIM Architects was awarded the 2011 AIA Architecture Firm Award www.bnim.com/news/bnim-receive-2011-aia-architecture-firm-award>