Friday, December 9, 2016

PARKS IN THE SKY Learning more about alternative park locations

After supporting co-workers that participating in the Alexandria Parking Day 2017.  I realized how important parks are, especially to urban communities.  Therefore I find myself being drawn to stories that highlight how designers have transformed nontraditional spaces into parks or recreational spaces.  

For example, an indoor rain forest in Dubai (to be completed in 2018) and a rooftop playground in the Philippines.  Both spaces will be a wonderful escape for children...and some adults.  They will promote unconventional thinking and foster the realization that things imagined can be created.

Rendering of hotel

The Royal International hotel is having a two tower luxury hotel and residence complex built in Dubai.  It will feature (among other attractions) an entertainment podium, that will include a trampoline park, a bowling alley, a laser-tag complex and a man-made rain  The rain forest will use stored recycled water to simulate the sensations of being in a rain forest, but the advanced sensor-activated rain system doesn't get visitors wet.

Rendering of rain forest - to be located on the top floor

Photo of playground
The rooftop playground also called 'Sky Play' was designed by Kenneth Cobonque and is located in the mega-mall by Arquitectonica.  The playground is 1/2- acre and is a wonderfully whimsical combination of rattan, metal, artificial turf and rubber.  That have been transformed into gigantic dinosaurs and sea clams.  So, the kids can climb, slide, swing, run and jump among them.

The dinosaur area

The rattan area
 I'm sure the designer had to channel his inner child to come up with these wonderful ideas.

1. Boutique Design magazine, October 2016
    The Buzz, page 12

2. Interior Design magazine, November 2016
    Design Wire, page 40

Friday, September 9, 2016

Celebrating Architecture and Culture

The opening of the

National Museum of African American History and Culture

This historic museum will be dedicated September 24, 2016 and will showcase African American history and culture.

Looking north from the building, visitors can see the White House, which made history in 2008 with the election of President Barack Obama. Rising to the east beyond the National Mall and other Smithsonian museums is the U.S. Capitol, seat of the nation’s legislature. And to the south and west are monuments and memorials to Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington, whose contributions to African American history and culture are told in the museum. 

David Adjaye, Lead Designer
Philip Freelon, Lead Architect
The team lead by architects David Adjaye and Philip Freelon is very interesting.  This team embodies both sides of the African-American culture - our ancestral African roots and historical American roots.

From one perspective, the building's architecture follows classical Greco-Roman form in its use of a base and shaft, topped by a capital or corona.  In this case, the corona is inspired by the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa.  Moreover, the building's main entrance is a welcoming porch, which has architectural roots in Africa and throughout the African Diaspora, especially the American South and Caribbean.  Finally, by wrapping the entire building in an ornamental bronze-colored metallic lattice, Adjaye the architect pays homage to the intricate ironwork that was crafted by African Americans in Louisiana, South Carolina, and elsewhere.

Significantly, the enveloping lattice also opens the building to exterior daylight, which can be modulated according to the season. In one sense, this is architecturally practical and sustainable—and will help the building become the first Smithsonian museum to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. But the openness to light is also symbolic for a museum that seeks to stimulate open dialogues about race and to help promote reconciliation and healing. From the topmost corona, the view reaches ever upward, helping to remind visitors that the museum is an inspirational open to all as a place of meaning, memory, reflection, laughter, and hope.

Many of the world’s great buildings have integrated their architectural form with their function or purpose. The NMAAHC follows this principle in the sense that the building (as a “container”) embraces its content—which is the American story told through the lens of African American history and culture. Fulfilling a decades-long dream, the NMAAHC building is a community resource that helps visitors learn about themselves, their histories, and their common cultures. The light reflected from the bronze-colored lattice will serve as a beacon that reminds us of what we were, what challenges we still face, and what we may hope to become. As Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the NMAAHC, has described it, “This building will sing for all of us.” 



1. National Museum of African American History and Culture website

Additional Information

David Adjaye

Philip Freelon

Friday, August 26, 2016

DaNCinG fAçAdE

Kiefer Technic Showroom

Ernst Giselbrecht + Partner presents the Kiefer Technic Showroom, an office building and exhibition space with dynamic façade that changes to outdoor conditions, optimizing internal climate, while allowing users to personalize their own space with user controls.

The shell construction of the façade consist of solid brick walls, reinforced ceilings and floors, and steel encased concrete columns. The façade consist of aluminum posts and transoms with protruding bridges for maintenance, with an EIFS- Façade in white-plaster. The sun screen operates on electronic shutters of preformatted aluminum panels.

The 112 metal tiles that line the exterior of the Kiefer Technic Showroom in Bad Gleichenberg Austria are all movable, creating a dynamic and changeable façade that will quickly change anyone’s opinion of solar shading.

This façade also has a time control where the panels can change design every hour.

Check out the video here:


Friday, June 10, 2016


If given the opportunity would you work outside?

The students at Montgomery College - Department of Applied Technology, came up with an idea and pitched it to the Peterson Companies.  As luck would have it, the Peterson Companies were interested and worked with the students to make their idea possible.  This venture is actually a collaboration between Montgomery College, the Peterson Companies, Downtown Silver Spring and Adventist Healthcare.

The basic idea is to provide an alternative work/ conference space for local offices.  Considering most of us are an office most of the day - we walk in in the morning and walk out in the evening.  Wouldn't it be great to have a meeting in an outside space - get a little fresh air and sunlight.  Well if you work in Downtown Silver Spring, here's your opportunity.


Here's another thought, while it would be great to have a meeting outside (then stop by Ben and Jerry's on the way back to office), but how many of us would be able to concentrate on the meeting and not 'people watch' or get drawn into the wonderful weather.  Or worry about the possible intrusion from passers-by.  Again, it's a nice idea and I appreciate the thought in offering  office working professional a way to get out and enjoy the day.  Perhaps better suited as an overflow space for a restaurant.

1. Washingtonian

2. East MoCo

3. Downtown Silver Spring YouTube
(see link above)

4. DCist


Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Mill Creek Ranch

Honor Award, Residential

Vanderpool, TX | Ten Eyck Landscape Architects Inc. | Client: Private


Nestled in the Medina River valley of the Central Texas Hill Country, this ranch derives its beauty from its peninsular setting at the convergence of a natural spring and hill country creek. The open-air layout of the new ranch buildings—combined with terraced gardens, water and fire features, trails, and restoration of the site—allow the residents and their guests to be fully, yet comfortably, immersed in the beauty of the Texas Hill Country. A cascading storm water and creek purification feature in the courtyard activates multiple senses and pays homage to the spring, while another feature circulates a rill of spring water to help oxygenate the adjacent creek. Native grass lawns provide spaces for entertaining and children’s athletic activities. Old ranch roads and footprints of former barns now give rise to native grasses and forbs that cleanse rainwater prior to entering the creek and spring.

The new ranch house compound, situated near a spectacular bald cypress-lined spring and a creek, features outdoor living spaces carefully crafted to highlight existing features and designed to accommodate the client’s desire for play lawns, volleyball areas, a meditation area, a boat launch, hiking trails, and engaging water and fire elements. The various spaces are defined by native vegetation and durable hardscape materials—such as limestone, Oklahoma sugarloaf sandstone, natural steel, and board-formed concrete—selected to maintain coherency with the architecture. The architects sited the four building complexes at different elevations and angles, which were resolved by the landscape architect through terraced gardens and creatively routed stone plank paths. Original drawings by the civil engineer showed a catch basin in the middle of the courtyard to manage stormwater runoff; alternatively, the landscape architect developed a cleansing riparian courtyard garden and check dams that cleanse and accentuate the path of rainwater prior to it entering the spring and creek. Water features near the spring intercept small amounts of spring water to enhance the sensory experience of sound in addition to helping aerate the stagnant-prone waters of the creek, here upstream from an existing dam. Consistent forms and material selections respond to variations in site conditions and program to create a dynamic, yet unified aesthetic for the ranch house and ranch manager’s compounds and barn, which features an organic orchard and vegetable garden.



Friday, March 25, 2016


Hummelo is a village and private garden in Gelderland, eastern Netherlands. It is also Piet Oudolf’s home, his personal garden laboratory, a former nursery run by his wife Anja, and the place where he first tested new designs and created the new varieties of perennials that are now widely available.

Piet Oudolf is an influential Dutch garden designer, nurseryman and author. He is a leading figure of the "New Perennial" movement, using bold drifts of herbaceous perennials and grasses which are chosen at least as much for their structure as for their flower color. Other noteworthy Oudolf projects include The Highline and The Battery in New York City.

Oudolf first moved into Hummelo in 1982. It has gone through many changes which reflect Oudolf's constantly developing planting design.




Friday, March 11, 2016



There are some cities that have famous parks, like New York's Central park.  Many are not surprise or impressed to hear about a new park in a city that already has a great one already.  What would you think about an underground park?  Perhaps, how does this actually work? Well, the minds of Dan Barasch and James Ramsey have done just that...designed and created an underground park in New York City.

The project is based on the approach, developed by James Ramsey (a former NASA engineer).  The proposed location is Manhattan's Lower East Side.  First the duo captivated New Yorker with the park idea in 2011 with a media campaign.  The two acquired funding through a couple of 'Kickstarter' campaigns, then a South Korea technology company (SunPortal) jointed the project (2013).

So, 'How does this actually work?'  The underground park will be equipped with a new prototype remote solar hardware and hand-polished lenses from Germany - the retooled optics system preserves the Archimedean aspects of the first scheme.  The Lowline Lab will be housed in the Essex Street warehouse until March, but he lab is destined for the abandoned trolley station beneath Delancey Street.

While visiting the lab, you will notice the glowing tubes of refracted sunlight - suspended from the ceiling - aren't intended to illuminate the space.  The park has been described as a cross between a corporate atrium, a botanical garden, and the Rainforest Café - thanks to the contributions of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects.

While this is a great idea and will prove useful in the future, there's nothing like going outside for fresh air and the scenic views.


1. METROLOIS magazine - February 2016