Best of 2016

In 2016, I did not get the opportunity to travel for pleasure much.  Still, I had many memorable architectural experiences to recall.

1. Bullitt Center tour

Without a doubt, my 2016 highlight was a tour of the Bullitt Center in Seattle.  It has been the world's greenest building since it opened in 2013; this is a widely-shared consensus as far as I can tell, and I'm not aware of another building in its class.

I was lucky.  My tour was not ordinary one; it was led by Jim Hanford, the project architect for Miller Hull, and Denis Hayes, the client.  To many readers of this site, Hayes will need no introduction, as the Director of the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) in the 1970s, author of Rays of Hope: The Transition to a Post-Petroleum World, and much more.  He is mentioned (too briefly) in The Solar House.  I was attending the American Society of Environmental History (ASEH) Annual Conference, and a small group (almost no other architects) signed up for this tour.  I felt like it was just for me!  Hanford and Hayes spent hours with us.

2. Mark Turner talk

There were several excellent talks at the USGBC-Wyoming conference in October in Teton Village, but Mark Turner stuck a deep chord with me in describing the work of his firm Greenspur --- "a different kind of a design build firm."  Turner is a Wyoming native, so his talk had a very heartfelt 'homecoming' character.  He also comes from an educational background in the humanities, and he spent more time talking about Wallace Stegner than about BTUs.  This was quite a refreshing departure from the usual fare at a green building conference, I must say.  

3. Aspen Art Museum talk

My unit at the University of Wyoming --- the Department of Civil & Architectural Engineering --- invites distinguished guests to campus from time to time.  In 2016, the highlight was structural engineer Greg Kingsley of KL&A, structural designer of the Aspen Art Museum (architect: Shigeru Ban).  Kingsley spoke for an hour about the design process for the timber roof of the museum, and the ~70 students in attendance were absolutely enthralled.  It was an amazing back-and-forth process of creative inquiry between architect and engineer, resulting in a fascinating structure, and Kingsley's presentation of all of this was spot on.

Additionally, I was pleased to host two other outstanding guest lectures at UW in 2016:

  • Corrinne Kerr, AIA, Associate Partner at ZGF Architects in Portland. She's also an alumna of UW Architectural Engineering.

  • Shelly Miller, Ph.D., Professor at Colorado-Boulder and expert in Indoor Air Quality.

4. Vertical Harvest

With my research group BERG, I visited an impressive structure in Jackson, Wyoming, called Vertical Harvest.  It's a 3-story facility attached to the south end of a parking structure.  Greenhouses are a very interesting subject for several reasons.  The future of agriculture is indoors.  Greenhouses don't operate like buildings.  So we are doing a lot of research!

5. Solar House scholarship
Since you visit this site for Solar House news: Daniel Barber's book A House in the Sun was released in November.  It examines many of the same buildings and issues as I did in The Solar House, but from a different and well-appreciated theoretical perspective.  Anyone who enjoyed The Solar House should also find this to be a worthy read.

Rest in Peace
On a sad note, a pair of people passed away in 2016 who were both important to the world of architecture and to me personally:

  • Norman Millar, Dean of the School of Architecture at Woodbury University. He hired me to teach at Woodbury from 2002-2005, and I really admired him. He was a great leader for that institution. Woodbury's obituary is here; there was nothing in the LA Times. Frances Anderton called him "A Beautiful Soul," on the blog for her KCRW program DnA. That's a perfect phrase.

  • Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). I did not know her well, but she always welcomed Wyoming students to visit her Clerkenwell offices during our summer study abroad program. The best remembrance was written by Deyan Sudjic in The Guardian.

Thanks for Visiting had 19,300 pageviews in 2016. That's about 53 per day.

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Best of 2015
The Solar House: 2013 Year in Review