Could Lego Architecture Studio Actually Be Useful For Architects?

Oliver Wainwright (right) and friends trying out the Lego Architecture Studio

By Oliver Wainwright 
August 6, 2014, The Guardian

After over 60 years of firing up children’s imaginations and causing excruciating pain to their parents’ bare feet, Lego is growing up. Just launched in the UK, the Lego Architecture Studio is the Danish toy company’s attempt to get serious about the true potential of its plastic building blocks. The click-together bricks have long been cited as a source of inspiration for budding architects and the brand is now keen to monetise this association.

Adult fans of Lego (or afols for short) are clearly a lucrative market and the toy firm has previously sought to cash in on this ever-expanding demographic with its boutiquey range of famous buildings. Designed more for mantelpieces and office shelves than imaginative playscapes, they range from Frank Lloyd Wright’s conveniently blocky Fallingwater to the arcing sails of the Sydney Opera House – which is formed almost entirely of bespoke components that can only be used in one way, taking most of the fun out of building it.

The Architecture Studio promises something entirely different. It is the first Lego set that comes without instructions, providing 1,200 bricks and a 250-page manual for inspiration, featuring contributions from a number of high-profile architects, all extolling the virtues of using Lego in their creative process. With a hefty price tag of £150, the kit is designed to “allow you to explore the ideas and principles of architecture”. The jumbled, hastily edited book takes a scattergun approach to such ideas as scale and mass, surface and section, modules and repetition, illustrated with what the practices themselves have made out of Lego. So is it a mine of creative possibility – or an overpriced desk toy? I decided to put it to the test by inviting a group of architect friends over for a playday.

On opening the box, the first sign of seriousness is that colour has been banished. All the pieces are white, with some transparent elements, presumably to shed the childhood associations and make it more like something architects would use. Nor are there any little yellow people (or “minifigs”), as their fixed scale of 1:48 would limit construction to that ratio; whereas a Lego brick, as the manual reminds us, could be a single brick, an entire floor, or a whole block in a sprawling field of towers.  Read more…

How a San Francisco Architect Reframes Design for the Blind


By Lamar Anderson
August 6, 2014, CURBED

Architect Chris Downey is standing next to a pile of Sheetrock, balancing a white cane in the air like a tightrope walker’s pole. The week before, construction had begun on a new office for the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco, or ILRC, a nonprofit community center for people with disabilities. Downey holds the cane up to approximate for the center’s executive director, Jessie Lorenz, how the reception desk will jut out at an angle from a concrete column. Lorenz takes a step, and a pile of pipes on the floor clatters. “I don’t know what’s over there,” says Downey. Lorenz giggles. “I hope I didn’t break anything,” she says. Lorenz regains her footing and touches the cane. “That makes sense,” she says. “It’s almost like we’re funneling people into this part.”

Even though Lorenz, who, like Downey, is blind, can’t see the space before her, she knows exactly what to expect. On her desk at the ILRC’s current office on Mission Street, she keeps a tactile floor plan that Downey printed for her. The plan’s fine web of raised lines looks like an elaborate decorative pattern, suggesting a leaf of handmade stationery or a large sheet from which doilies are about to be cut. Though Downey has consulted on other architects’ projects since going blind six years ago, this one marks a turning point for him. The community center is the first space he’s designed since losing his sight. The center recently opened its doors to the public with a celebration to inaugurate the new space, located on Howard Street in the city’s Yerba Buena district, just down the block from the Moscone convention center. But on this May afternoon, the walls are just beginning to go up.

Lorenz and her guide dog, a German shepherd named Phoenix, head deeper into the building to check out the storage room, and Downey makes his way to the storefront, where the conference room looks out onto Howard. Other than a few scant rays of afternoon sunlight slanting in through the window, it’s dark. The floor is scattered with the guts of the future office—cables, pipes, and more Sheetrock—obstacles Downey weaves around with his cane. There’s sort of a ropes-course, trust-fall quality to touring a dimly lit construction site with someone who can’t see. He tells me where we are, and I tell him where not to step. Read more…

2014 Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence: Open For Submissions

The Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence is an annual awards program open to all architects registered in Canada and to Canadian architectural graduates for buildings designed in Canada and abroad. Foreign architects are permitted to submit, provided they have partnered with a Canadian-registered architect.

The jury for this year’s awards has been finalized, and is comprised of: Michael Green, founder and principal of MGA | Michael Green Architecture in Vancouver; Tyler Sharp, principal of RDH rounthwaite dick and Hadley architects in Toronto; and Éric Gauthier, principal of Les Architectes FABG in Montreal.

Project submissions must be received by 5:00pm EST on Thursday, September 18, 2014.

Projects must be in the design stage, scheduled for construction or under construction but not substantially complete by September 18, 2014. All projects must be commissioned by a client with the intention to build the submitted proposal. All building types and concisely presented urban design schemes are eligible. Awards are given for architectural design excellence. Jurors will consider the scheme’s response to the client’s program, site, and geographic and social context. They will evaluate its physical organization, form, structure, materials and environmental features.

For more information and to download the entry form, please visit

The entry form is also available in the July 2014 and August 2014 print editions of Canadian Architect.

To view the winners of the 2013 Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence, please visit

$6M for Innovation Centre

By Trevor Rockliffe
July 28, 2014,

The Province announced a $6 million investment toward the development of the new state-of- the-art Okanagan Centre for Innovation in Kelowna on Monday.

Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Andrew Wilkinson were joined by local technology entrepreneurs and Mayor Walter Gray for the announcement.

“Becoming the next made-in-B.C. success story like HootSuite or Club Penguin is no easy task – that’s why we’re investing in this project to help give people in our tech industry a competitive advantage,” says Premier Clark.

“This new centre will help entrepreneurs get their companies up and running, and launch Kelowna not only as a national tech leader but a globally recognized destination for tech investment and entrepreneurial development.”

Construction of the six-storey, 9,850 square-metre (106,000 square- foot) centre, which will be located adjacent to the Okanagan Regional Library, is expected to begin in late summer and is anticipated to be completed in early 2016.

The innovative centre will provide work space for budding local technology entrepreneurs, students and companies at a minimal cost. In return, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to collaboratively develop their ideas, gain invaluable experience and grow their businesses further with companies and mentors, like Accelerate Okanagan, who also will share office space in this building.

“This new technology centre is the perfect addition to Kelowna’s already booming tech sector, providing up-and-coming tech companies and entrepreneurs with a workspace ideally suited for networking and collaboration,” says Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services.

“The centre will play a key role in innovation and growth in the region, driving the creation of new jobs and helping build economic prosperity and diversity here in the Okanagan.”

The $35-million project is being funded largely by the Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group, who will also own and operate the building. The project was created by a diverse group of creative minds including: community, civic and academic leaders including representatives from private industry, Okanagan College, University of British Columbia, Accelerate Okanagan and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission. Read more…

Call For Nominations: RAIC 2015 Fellowship

To all RAIC members and fellows, for those wishing to nominate a member of the RAIC for Fellowship in 2015 please note that the deadline for receipt of nominations at the RAIC is October 31, 2014. The guidelines for the nomination process are on the RAIC website. The documentation is to be submitted correctly to the BC/Yukon National Committee Regional Chair for review at least two weeks before the October deadline and he will forward it on to the College of Fellows for consideration. The BC/Yukon Regional Chair is Sebastian Butler, Architect AIBC, FRAIC and can be reached at If further detail or clarification is needed please contact the College of Fellows at (613) 241-3600 Ext.214, fax (613) 241-5750, or e-mail

Innovate 2014: UBC Engineering & Architecture Dialogues

Come discover pathways to industry partnership with UBC Applied Science. In an evening of thought-provoking, seven-minute presentations, learn why faculty are passionate about their work. Start the dialogue to open up infinite possibilities to leverage research. This event takes place September 29, 2014 from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. at UBC Robson Square (downtown Vancouver campus). For more information and to r.s.v.p., please visit