A Declaration on Climate Adaptation (9/23/2021) - Climate is the force which most directly shapes architecture but we are reckoning with a destabilized climate system, altered by mankind through epoch-shattering consumption. We acknowledge a future marked by more frequent and more severe events; the current built environment will fail to shelter occupants and protect investments. Architects participate in creating the built environment but we need to create a future that is more resilient, more just, and more sustainable. unabridged promotes adaptation to the future through the following principles: We adapt by assessing hazards and designing to mitigate risk and consequence. We adapt by avoiding sites of future inundation or elevating above foreseeable floods. We adapt by creating multiple lines of defence within the landscape and at the building edge. We adapt by armouring critical facilities to the highest level of protection. We adapt by designing for an extended service life for new buildings and the reuse of existing buildings. We adapt by choosing materials to combat environmental conditions. We adapt by considering embodied and operational carbon in our buildings. We adapt by restoring the complex ecosystems that can better accommodate disturbance. We adapt by creating beloved places that serve the community. Our projects inspire a deeper look at architecture and the forces that shape the built environment. We seek to discover the uniqueness inherent in each place and amplify it. Our projects cross boundaries: building and landscape, site and community, vernacular and modern. How can we help you adapt to the future? ...
Beyond the shotgun shack: How architects are rethinking Southern buildings for the 21st century (9/7/2021) - in Fast Company by Nate Berg Due to its history, its culture, and especially its climate, the American South has a unique architectural style. Too often, though, the buildings of the South are boiled down to stereotypes. "It can either be the sharecropper shacks that were valorized by Walker Evans and James Agee or the white columned plantation mansions that are valorized in Gone With the Wind," says Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design at the University of Arkansas. To broaden the perception of architecture in the South, particularly recent architecture, MacKeith has curated "A South Forty." The new exhibition focuses on the work of dozens of architecture firms based in and working in a region not often associated with top-shelf contemporary architecture. But as the South faces increasing threats from extreme weather, sea level rise, and climate change, architects there are setting new standards for how architecture can help even small communities build for an uncertain future. Developed through a collaboration with the Oxford American and now on display at the Venice Architecture Biennale, “A South Forty” features about 40 firms working since the 1990s along and near the Interstate 40 corridor that runs from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Featured firms include bigger practices like EskewDumezRipple; renowned firms like Marlon Blackwell Architects, recent winner of the American Institute of Architect’s Gold Medal; and community-focused projects like Auburn University’s Rural Studio. With an emphasis on civic projects that respond to local conditions and local needs, the exhibition expands the language of Southern architecture beyond the gabled roof and wide front porch. Still, these elements are also part of the story, MacKeith says. “We’re moving beyond stereotypes, and at the same time, acknowledging that there is a history of architecture embedded in the region that is about climate response. The shotgun house as a form is itself a response to climate. The porch in all of its manifestations is very much a response to climate,” he says. What distinguishes the architecture of recent decades is how much that climate is changing. Extreme heat, hurricanes, flooding, and sea level rise are increasingly influencing the designs and types of projects architects produce. These are challenges known well to unabridged Architecture, one of the firms included in the exhibition. Founded by Allison Anderson in 1995 and based in the small town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the firm was personally hit hard by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Anderson and her husband, now firm partner John Anderson, had recently moved into a house they designed when the storm struck. Despite being a thousand feet inland, on high ground, and in a place that hadn’t flooded in 300 years, the storm left 8 feet of water in their house. "It was a very strong awakening," Allison Anderson says. "We adopted this much more forensic approach to architecture, thinking very critically about the places that people are asking us to build. We're really challenging all of our clients to think about the future, and to think about climate change in a way that they're maybe not used to doing." Now, in projects ranging from private residences to university buildings and historic restorations, unabridged Architecture is using its designs to help parts of the South be more resilient in the face of extreme and sometimes deadly climate events. Not all of unabridged Architecture's projects are about environmental collapse, though. One current project now under construction is an adaptation of a former hardware store and lumber yard in downtown Bay St. Louis that the firm has turned into a 15-unit apartment building with retail and restaurant space. It's a modest mixed-use project that might not stand out in a bigger city, but it represents a major shift in the thinking about what types of buildings Southern towns want and need in the 21st century. "That kind of thing can really have a meaningful impact on a small town like this," says John Anderson. This kind of civic engagement is a recurring theme among the architecture firms included in the exhibition. MacKeith says many of them have eschewed bigger commissions and urban locales for smaller projects that actually serve the communities in which they live. The firm deLeon and Primmer Architecture Workshop, for example, has been exploring innovative timber- and bamboo-based designs in Kentucky, and the Jackson, Mississippi, firm Duvall Decker has a deep portfolio of public building projects across the state. “I think these are people who are doing everyday acts of heroism on behalf of their communities, not even intending to do that,” he says. “That’s my rhetoric, not theirs.” Though the exhibition features about 40 firms, per the name, MacKeith says there’s a growing number of firms engaging with the South that embody this new approach to the region’s climate and needs—focus areas that will continue to have greater relevance as the climate changes around the world. “It’s ongoing,” MacKeith says of firms pushing Southern architecture in new directions. “What they’re doing is of the South, but reaches beyond the South.” ...
How is a Pandemic like a Hurricane? (4/26/2020) -   People had (a little) time to prepare, and all the same grocery staples disappeared from the shelves: bread, toilet paper, and bottled water. There may be no good reason for this save habit and practice, but it turns out that the return of these essentials to the shelf takes an equally long time due to the global supply chain woes, and perhaps a lingering need to hoard supplies. The weather afterwards is spectacular… and there is no place to go. After a storm the humidity is low, the sun shines, and all the places to go for a distraction are closed. Our pandemic weather has been a near-uninterrupted stretch of sunshine and low humidity, making us feel as if a storm has come through. We want to be outside – the difference is now we can’t be with our neighbors. This is the reason people are spending time and money in their backyards and balconies, restoring the neglected corners, bringing order to their own patch of ground. It establishes a marker in our lives and a way of measuring time. For gulf coast residents, there is pre-Katrina and post-Katrina; now there is pre-Covid and post-Covid. In each of these events many of our friends lost everything. From each of these events we will spend years making up the losses. Katrina damaged buildings, infrastructure, history, the forest canopy, and 1,833 lives. Covid is affecting savings, retirement, jobs, productivity, and 203,670 lives to date, with many more to come. The recovery won’t be straightforward. After a hurricane, people must navigate new regulations for flood zones, elevation, and zoning; getting back to “normal” after Covid will not be a clear, linear sequence of measures. The government is as untutored at managing a response to this crisis as George Bush’s FEMA was unprepared for Katrina. We can expect a series of starts and stops, resources that are slow to arrive, highly-touted pathways to a cure discarded, economic “stimulus” an ineffective panacea. The regional Katrina recovery took ten years – will the recovery of the entire global economy take less? ...
There is Nothing Like a Pandemic to Change the World (3/28/2020) - In times of peril, people need a feeling of security, camaraderie, and the sense that things will be all right, that “we are in it together.” It is for that reason that thousands of people slept in Tube stations, requisitioned buildings, and damp basements during World War II, and why we take shelter in communal facilities today. It’s not because it is the safest place but because we need the comfort of people around us. That is what makes this pandemic so difficult. It is a time of fear and uncertainty when our need for reassurance is strong. The timing is equally challenging – that we are confined in springtime, at the end of our seasonal hibernation, seems particularly cruel. Our efforts to exert a measure of control over our environment lead us to do what we can in our personal space. We are cleaning out cabinets, closets, and junk drawers. We are sprucing up backyards, porches, planters. The parking lots of home improvement stores resemble the Christmas rush as we take on “essential” household repairs. How will this experience change our demands upon the urban realm when we do emerge from our soft confinement?  Will we want more/different spaces for social interaction or improve the ones we have? Will moving the homeless into housing for the duration of the pandemic improve their lives and inspire us to find permanent measures? Will we finally recognize the toll we have placed on the environment and take strides to reduce our destruction of natural resources? Will this extended period in our houses and apartments alter our conception of the ideal home? Will it be cleaner, greener, have more ventilation and more storage? Will we choose to live in expanded family groups after missing our children or parents in this enforced isolation? We will be changed by this event, in ways that are unimaginable right now but will emerge over the next decade. Let’s use the recovery to build the physical environment we want and a better future for everyone. ...
10 Things Architects Can Do While Self-Isolated (3/20/2020) - This is a time for organization, for accomplishing tasks we put off for a rainy day, and for creating possibilities for the future. During this period of recommended self-isolation, take time to consider options and use this period constructively. Make progress on your projects. Try another design option. It’s not a normal workday but it might be a chance to think laterally about a project. Are you considering issues of privacy, loneliness, resilience? Put it into your work. Do the everyday stuff you keep putting off. Catch up on correspondence. Update schedules. Empty your inbox. Do this in small chunks of time so that it isn’t overwhelming; it will soon be done. Clean up your workspace. We all have outdated brochures, samples, materials, paperwork. Take what you can to recycling and chuck out the rest. Make a list of products you want to learn more about and see if there are CEUs online. Which leads to…. Catch up on continuing education. There are 1000s of courses that count toward AIA, GBCI, and state licensure. Check out a subject you haven’t considered before: Equity by Design or Resilience and Adaptation. Do it now instead of waiting for December. We may be really busy in December. Do a drawing a day during the quarantine – it’s why we became architects, right? It might be a fond memory of a place you wish you were right now, a still life of the sad vegetables you got at the grocery store, or the wine bottles you emptied last night. It doesn’t matter. Just draw. Explore an abandoned building or site in your area. Imagine what it could become. Make a list of people who might contribute their expertise – call them your “dream team.” And then call them for real. We need good ideas right now. Reach out to your clients and find out how they are doing. Ask them about the impacts to their business. Don’t send out that email to everyone in your address book, personalize it. Drop them a postcard or make a call. There might be something you can do to help or learn useful strategies for your next project. While we are on the subject…. Be a resource for others. Architects have had a role in keeping people safe from disease throughout the ages. Access to light and proper ventilation, materials that are easily cleaned and don’t harbor germs, correct humidity, spaces for hygiene… all of these are things we understand. Make sure you know the science behind this outbreak and share solutions for sanitizing and separation with others. Polish your portfolio. Prepare project sheets, organize your standard forms, add to your website. Improve your social media skills and post regularly. Fine tune your graphics and update resumes. Photograph your projects while there are few people around. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your staff if you don’t accomplish much. It’s a strange period and we all need to stay healthy: relax, eat well, and focus on a healthy mind and body. Take care of your families, your neighbors, yourself. Health, safety, and welfare – we will have a chance to exercise these skills again soon. ...
Misguided Streets (2/19/2020) - Our city is considering converting a two-way street at the most visible and central corner of our downtown into a one-way street. There has been a great deal of research on this subject, and this type of street conversion has proven not to be a panacea for redevelopment – quite the opposite. In other cities the impacts of switching to one-way streets have included higher-speed traffic, more collisions, higher crime, lower mobility, and reduced economic growth potential. Many cities, including Biloxi’s Vieux Marche, are converting one-way systems into two-way systems, at great cost to the taxpayer. They anticipate that restoring the two-way street network will promote better traffic flow and improve the conditions for economic development. A few points to consider: 1. Two-way streets are safer. One-way streets often have higher actual (not posted) speeds, leading to more collisions and reducing pedestrian and bicycle safety. Designing walkable thoroughfares – a characteristic that our town is known for – depends on 2-way streets. 2. Two-way streets are superior in vehicular level of service: when drivers engage in inefficient circling on one-way streets they create more traffic. One-way streets confuse visitors, elderly, and rookie drivers. 3. Changing from one-way to two-way streets has been shown to increase growth in three sectors of the economy: arts, entertainment and recreation; accommodation and food service; and professional offices. These are the three major types of uses in the first block of our current Main Street; changing from two-way to one-way may have the converse effect of slowing or reversing growth in these sectors. 4. In one study, property values were shown to have increased when a one-way street was converted to a two-way street, over 5% in value. I don’t think we want to risk reducing property values. In order to create the conditions for slower and safer traffic, invite pedestrians and bicyclists, provide better mobility and increase the economic growth potential, downtown streets need to remain two-way streets. ...
CLIMATE ACTION (1/6/2020) - There is no more critical threat to our future than climate change. We are already seeing the effects in our daily lives – nuisance flooding, sweltering days, intense storms, out of control wildfires. These will continue to worsen, as will ecosystem collapse, biodiversity losses, and the necessary abandonment of areas that have repetitive and uninsurable risks. Can we design our way out of this? Architects believe that a different future is possible. We are in a position to address the primary issues affecting the built environment: mitigating carbon in the construction and operation of buildings and the underlying design of cities; and adapting to a future with greater climate variability of precipitation, hotter temperatures, more flooding and fires. In order to do this, we need a Climate Action Plan. Buildings are responsible for 39% of greenhouse gas emissions, by far the largest share; a shockingly larger slice of global emissions than transportation or industry. A total of 11% is embodied carbon in construction and 28% in building operations. If we succeed in designing buildings to meet net zero, the associated reductions will fulfill Paris Accord targets. The American Institute of Architects is working toward this goal and Allison Anderson is one of a dozen architects from across the country grappling with how a Climate Action Plan will guide the institute in focusing attention on this all-encompassing problem. The AIA is an army of 94,000 people. If we are successful at leading the profession, transforming the practice of architecture, and educating the next generation of architects, developers, clients (and the general public), we can make headway against climate change. The AIA is moving quickly and we expect to have a draft of the plan by February 2020. For more information on the AIA Climate Action Plan go to: https://www.aiacontracts.org/resources/77541-where-we-stand-climate-change ...
Choose Your Own Adventure (12/20/2019) - There is a persistent myth that sustainability and resilience overlap in most aspects. While that is true for certain things – a better building envelope improves passive survivability, renewables can provide power after a storm – in many cases, creating a more resilient building is more carbon-intensive than a standard building. At Greenbuild 2019, we shared some of the trade-offs that architects and their clients face in deciding which performance standard to prioritize. Ann Kosmal, our great friend, architect, and risk assessor who works for the GSA, joined Allison and John to determine the potential vulnerabilities affecting a site in downtown Davenport, Iowa. (Initially we thought to select a coastal site but wanted to recognize that inland flooding is much more common and accounts for more presidential disaster declarations than any other hazard category.) We talked through hazards – flooding, tornadoes, seismic risk – and let the audience choose the solutions to incorporate. For example, to address flooding they could select wet floodproofing, dry floodproofing, elevating the building, or elevating the whole site; each of these had implications on the building operations during and after an event, recovery time, and embodied carbon, as well as affecting the building form. A clear understanding of the hazards and vulnerabilities always affects design. A designer may be able to achieve both sustainable and resilient goals with one assembly; the solution the participants chose to manage stormwater was to collect and treat it for reuse as greywater; we combined it with the decision to elevate the building by embedding stormwater chambers in the foundation and allowing that volume to reduce the amount of fill necessary to elevate the first level. As we walked through the decision points differentiating sustainability and resilience, we didn’t lose sight of the relationship to scale, context, or other principles of design excellence. If a building isn’t objectively good, if it doesn’t function properly, isn’t flexible enough to sustain changes over time, or doesn’t appeal to the community, investments in sustainability or resilience will be wasted. Links to the resources we often use as a starting point to assess hazards at U.S. sites: https://toolkit.climate.gov/#climate-explorer https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/ https://asce7hazardtool.online/ https://hazards.atcouncil.org/ ...
A Declaration on Climate Adaptation (9/23/2021) - Climate is the force which most directly shapes architecture but we are reckoning with a destabilized climate system, altered by mankind through epoch-shattering consumption. We acknowledge a future marked by more frequent and more severe events; the current built environment will fail to shelter occupants and protect investments. Architects participate in creating the built environment but we need to create a future that is more resilient, more just, and more sustainable. unabridged promotes adaptation to the future through the following principles: We adapt by assessing hazards and designing to mitigate risk and consequence. We adapt by avoiding sites of future inundation or elevating above foreseeable floods. We adapt by creating multiple lines of defence within the landscape and at the… ...
Beyond the shotgun shack: How architects are rethinking Southern buildings for the 21st century (9/7/2021) - in Fast Company by Nate Berg Due to its history, its culture, and especially its climate, the American South has a unique architectural style. Too often, though, the buildings of the South are boiled down to stereotypes. "It can either be the sharecropper shacks that were valorized by Walker Evans and James Agee or the white columned plantation mansions that are valorized in Gone With the Wind," says Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design at the University of Arkansas. To broaden the perception of architecture in the South, particularly recent architecture, MacKeith has curated "A South Forty." The new exhibition focuses on the work of dozens of architecture firms based in and working in… ...
How is a Pandemic like a Hurricane? (4/26/2020) -   People had (a little) time to prepare, and all the same grocery staples disappeared from the shelves: bread, toilet paper, and bottled water. There may be no good reason for this save habit and practice, but it turns out that the return of these essentials to the shelf takes an equally long time due to the global supply chain woes, and perhaps a lingering need to hoard supplies. The weather afterwards is spectacular… and there is no place to go. After a storm the humidity is low, the sun shines, and all the places to go for a distraction are closed. Our pandemic weather has been a near-uninterrupted stretch of sunshine and low humidity, making us feel as if… ...
There is Nothing Like a Pandemic to Change the World (3/28/2020) - In times of peril, people need a feeling of security, camaraderie, and the sense that things will be all right, that “we are in it together.” It is for that reason that thousands of people slept in Tube stations, requisitioned buildings, and damp basements during World War II, and why we take shelter in communal facilities today. It’s not because it is the safest place but because we need the comfort of people around us. That is what makes this pandemic so difficult. It is a time of fear and uncertainty when our need for reassurance is strong. The timing is equally challenging – that we are confined in springtime, at the end of our seasonal hibernation, seems particularly cruel.… ...
10 Things Architects Can Do While Self-Isolated (3/20/2020) - This is a time for organization, for accomplishing tasks we put off for a rainy day, and for creating possibilities for the future. During this period of recommended self-isolation, take time to consider options and use this period constructively. Make progress on your projects. Try another design option. It’s not a normal workday but it might be a chance to think laterally about a project. Are you considering issues of privacy, loneliness, resilience? Put it into your work. Do the everyday stuff you keep putting off. Catch up on correspondence. Update schedules. Empty your inbox. Do this in small chunks of time so that it isn’t overwhelming; it will soon be done. Clean up your workspace. We all have outdated… ...
Misguided Streets (2/19/2020) - Our city is considering converting a two-way street at the most visible and central corner of our downtown into a one-way street. There has been a great deal of research on this subject, and this type of street conversion has proven not to be a panacea for redevelopment – quite the opposite. In other cities the impacts of switching to one-way streets have included higher-speed traffic, more collisions, higher crime, lower mobility, and reduced economic growth potential. Many cities, including Biloxi’s Vieux Marche, are converting one-way systems into two-way systems, at great cost to the taxpayer. They anticipate that restoring the two-way street network will promote better traffic flow and improve the conditions for economic development. A few points to… ...
CLIMATE ACTION (1/6/2020) - There is no more critical threat to our future than climate change. We are already seeing the effects in our daily lives – nuisance flooding, sweltering days, intense storms, out of control wildfires. These will continue to worsen, as will ecosystem collapse, biodiversity losses, and the necessary abandonment of areas that have repetitive and uninsurable risks. Can we design our way out of this? Architects believe that a different future is possible. We are in a position to address the primary issues affecting the built environment: mitigating carbon in the construction and operation of buildings and the underlying design of cities; and adapting to a future with greater climate variability of precipitation, hotter temperatures, more flooding and fires. In order… ...
Choose Your Own Adventure (12/20/2019) - There is a persistent myth that sustainability and resilience overlap in most aspects. While that is true for certain things – a better building envelope improves passive survivability, renewables can provide power after a storm – in many cases, creating a more resilient building is more carbon-intensive than a standard building. At Greenbuild 2019, we shared some of the trade-offs that architects and their clients face in deciding which performance standard to prioritize. Ann Kosmal, our great friend, architect, and risk assessor who works for the GSA, joined Allison and John to determine the potential vulnerabilities affecting a site in downtown Davenport, Iowa. (Initially we thought to select a coastal site but wanted to recognize that inland flooding is much… ...