Q&A: Wendell Burnette on the Architecture of Place

By Guy Horton
Metropolis, April 21, 2014

Wendell Burnette’s journey through architecture has taken him from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, where he has designed a type of architecture that resonates with the power of natural surroundings. It has also taken him to one of the world’s fastest growing cities, Phoenix, Arizona, where his practice, Wendell Burnette Architects, is based and where he calls home. More recently it has brought him to Los Angeles where he is the current Nancy M. & Edward D. Fox Urban Design Critic at the USC School of Architecture.

I spoke with Burnette about his approach to architecture, the importance of direct experience, and the meaning behind his current USC studio, “Earth Curvature”.

Guy Horton: I’m struck by how your work seems to be defined by a deep understanding of place. How do you achieve this?

Wendell Burnette: “Presencing” program is one way. When a building expresses its mission and engages the street it can be understood even from passing cars, or passing by on foot, as well as from the inside. A project like Maryvale (Palo Verde Public Library/Maryvale Community Center), for example, expresses a spirit of civic engagement. It reveals itself as a place for people, a place people want to be. In this sense, architecture can be inspiring programmatically. It gives something back by honoring the program and making it more transparent to the outside. Maryvale is a case where we re-presented a public program that had been hidden behind block walls. The old community center was like a cellblock. Now it’s a mind-body dialogue with the library and community center/gym both being revealed. This is one way you can get people to understand it’s there for them. Architecture can also embody the remembrance of a site, its history as a place.  More…

Architect Raymond Moriyama launches $100K prize

CBC News
April 04, 2014

Celebrated Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama is launching a $100,000 prize this fall that is being billed as one of the largest architectural prizes in the world.

Established jointly with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Foundation, the Moriyama RAIC International Prize will celebrate an outstanding building or project by an architect, a group of collaborators or an international firm anywhere in the world.

Alternately, the prize could also be awarded to an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the field of architecture.

The $100,000 prize will be awarded every two years and will be accompanied by a handcrafted sculpture by Canadian artist Wei Yew — a distinctive trophy that will depict abstractions of the Canadian landscape.

Each winner will be chosen through an open, juried competition.

“My hope is that this prize will raise not only the stature of the RAIC internationally, but also the stature of Canada, and inspire Canadians and Canadian architects to aspire higher,” the 84-year-old Moriyama said in a statement.

“Anybody, young or old could apply and have a chance of winning.” More…

Architect Michael Green brings design flair to Fairview Slopes

By Hadani Ditmars
The Globe and Mail, April 21, 2014

Architect Michael Green is having a busy month. Shortly after his wooden high-rise project was written up in The Economist, his first multifamily project in Vancouver, 6th & Willow, was unveiled to great applause.

Fittingly for an architect who marries a certain Canadian idiom to an internationalist style, the 25-unit townhouse complex takes Vancouverist values to the next level. At the crossroads of False Creek and the Cambie Corridor, the project respects both the urbanity of the area and its connection to the natural world. At the same time, it offers an intriguing interplay between the public and private.

Developed by Edwin Liang of Kenstone Properties, 6th & Willow offers the quality and gravitas of the single-family home, with the scale and massing of an urban dwelling.

The project’s Fairview Slopes locale is undergoing a second wave of densification after its Expo 86-inspired growth spurt, but to date the area has been without a clear design directive. Long filled with bland suburban-style townhouses and low-scale retail, recent zoning changes now allow for more urban-style mixed use and some sites are being redeveloped. More…