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Architecture

Design Decoded: The Architectural History of Pepsi, Part 1: The ‘Mad Men’ Years

 

pepsi building nyc

The Park Avenue facade of the Pepsi-Cola Corporation World Headquarters, designed by SOM (image: Ezra Stoller, via SOM]

In 1963, Pepsi-Cola launched a new advertising campaign: The Pepsi Generation. Those three simple words represented a drastic rebranding for the company, which had previously marketed itself as a cheaper version of rival Coca-Cola. With the launch of “The Pepsi Generation” campaign, Pepsi claimed to be offering something new, something hip, something for the kids. While Coke continued to trade on nostalgia with traditional imagery of some idyllic yesteryear, Pepsi’s commercials featured snappy jazz numbers and young beautiful people riding motorcycles. “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation!” The soda maker’s rebranding also included a simplified logo featuring a modern, sans-serif typeface, the introduction of a diet cola –now famously immortalized in an episode of “Mad Men”– and, a few blocks from the offices of Sterling Cooper, a striking new modern building in New York City.

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Architecture

Design Decoded: The Secret to the Modern Beehive is a One-Centimeter Air Gap

Typical examples of modern beehives. The larger boxes at the bottom contain the brood and food for the bees. The smaller boxes, separated by a filter that prevents entry by the queen bee, contains the frames used for collecting honey. (image: jonathunder, wikimedia commons)

In 1851, Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth invented a better beehive and changed beekeeping forever. The Langstroth Hive didn’t spring fully formed from one man’s imagination, but was built on a foundation of methods and designs developed over millenia.

Beekeeping dates back at least to ancient Egypt, when early apiarists built their hives from straw and clay (if you happen to find a honeypot in a tomb, feel free to stick your hand in it, you rascal, because honey lasts longer than a mummy). In the intervening centuries, various types of artificial hives developed, from straw baskets to wood boxes but they all shared one thing: “fixed combs” that must be physically cut from the hive. These early fixed comb hives made it difficult for beekeepers to inspect their brood for diseases or other problems.

In the 18th century, noted Swiss naturalist François Huber developed a “movable comb” or “movable frame” hive that featured wooded leaves filled with honeycombs that could be flipped like the pages of a book. Despite this innovation, Huber’s hive was not widely adopted and simple box hives remained the popular choice for beekeepers until the 1850s. Enter Lorenzo Langstroth.

Francois Huber’s movable frame hive (image: Francois Huber, New Observations on the Natural History of Bees)

Langstroth wasn’t a beekeeper by trade. As a minister, he presided over a flock instead of a colony. After graduating from Yale in 1832, when the school was still lead by an ordained minister, the Philadelphia-born Langstroth went on to become a pastor in Massachusetts and then, a few years later, a principal at a women’s school. It was around this time that he took up beekeeping as a means to mitigate severe bouts of depression—because nothing eases the mind like the incessant droning of drone bees.

Langstroth pursued his hobby with the methodological rigor befitting his academic and theological background. He began by reading previous works on beekeeping and building hives following Huber’s designs, eventually experimenting with other types of construction. The process taught him the mechanics of beekeeping but also revealed that there was still some room for improvement. As Langstroth writes in his 1853 book Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee: A Bee Keeper’s Manual:

“The result of all these investigations fell far short of my expectations. I became, however, most thoroughly convinced that no hives were fit to be used, unless they furnished uncommon protection against extremes of heat and more especially of cold. I accordingly discarded all thin hives made of inch stuff, and constructed my hives of doubled materials, enclosing a ‘dead air’ space all around.”

This “dead air” gap—known today by the delightfully architectural term “bee space”—would have an added benefit. Langstroth discovered that bees would not build a honeycomb in a one-centimeter space—anything bigger, they would build a comb, anything smaller and the bees would fill it with propolis, the resinous composite also known as “bee glue” that bees make to construct their hives.

U.S. Patent No. 1,484, issued October 5, 1852 (image: Google patents)

The notion of bee space, combined with the knowledge gleaned from the Huber hive, convinced Langstroth that “with proper precautions, the combs might be removed without enraging the bees, and that [bees] were capable of being domesticated or tamed, to a most surprising degree.” Realizing that honeycombs could be safely removed from the hive, Langstroth designed a system of removable frames that were suspended from the top of the box and set off from its sides by a one-centimeter gap. Thus, bees could build their combs in each frame, and the frames weren’t stuck to one another or to the box with propolis; they could be easily removed, replaced or moved to other hives without disturbing the bees or damaging the combs. Using Langstroth’s hive, it was now much easier to inspect and attend to the bees, and of course, to collect the honey. This was a very big deal in 1851 when honey was the primary means of sweetening food.

The hive was fabricated by a local cabinetmaker and fellow bee enthusiast Henry Bourquin, and the two men manufactured and sold the hive for several years. In a savvy marketing move, Langstroth opened his book on beekeeping with an advertisement for his hive enumerating its myriad benefits:

“Weak stocks may be quickly strengthened by helping them to honey and maturing brood from stronger ones; queenless colonies may be rescued from certain ruin by supplying them with the means of obtaining another queen; and the ravages of the moth effectually prevented, as at any time the hive may be readily examined and all the worms, &c., removed from the combs. New colonies may be formed in less time than is usually required to hive a natural swarm; or the hive may be used as a non-swarmer, or managed on the common swarming plan. The surplus honey may be taken from the interior of the hive on the frames or in upper boxes or glasses, in the most convenient, beautiful and saleable forms. Colonies may be safely transferred from any other hive to this, at any season of the year, from April to October, as the brood, combs, honey and all the contents of the hive are transferred with them, and securely fastened in the frames.”

Despite earning a patent on the design in 1852, other beekeepers began to copy Langstroth’s hive and the minister-cum-beekeeper spent years unsuccessfully defending his design from infringement. By the end of the century, Langstroth’s hive—or reasonable facsimiles of it—became the preferred hive for professional and amateur beekeepers, and it is still the most common artificial hive in use. And, in perhaps the greatest complement that could be given to an industrial innovation, what was once a design feature—removable frames—is now, in most states, required by law.

via Design Decoded http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/design/2013/09/the-secret-to-the-modern-beehive-is-a-one-centimeter-air-gap/

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Architecture

Design Decoded: Apiculture and Architecture or What’s the buzz on honeybees and highrises?

 

hive city

Looking up into a skyscraper for bees, designed by students at the University of Buffalo (image: Hive City)

It’s been five years now since it was reported that, for the first time ever, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas. Such a dramatic demographic shift comes with inevitable consequences – some predictable, like rising housing prices and greater economic disparity, and some less so, like the rise in urban honeybee population. With growing interest in sustainability and local food production combined with news stories and documentaries about honeybee colony collapse disorder, recent changes in laws, and the growing urban population, urban beekeeping is a full-blown trend. But it’s not just about the honey. The humble honeybee is starting to play a greater role in the design of urban living.

bank of america building

The Bank of American Tower by Cook Fox architects. Somewhere in that image 100,000 bees are buzzing 51 stories above New York City (image: Cook Fox)

Honeybees can help maintain the green roofs that are becoming more common in big cities and thus, in some small way, contribute to a building’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, which is a metric of sustainability promoted by the United States Green Building Council based on a system of points awarded for environmentally friendly features. In Manhattan, for example, the rooftop hives atop The Bank of America Tower, a 51-story glass skyscraper in the heart of Midtown, were recently featured in The New York Times. The towers’s 6,000-sq-ft green roof is a critical element of its LEED Platinum rating –the highest possible– and is sustained in part by two hives of 100,00 honey bees.

Buildings can benefit from bees in other ways. While some urban bees help secure sustainability credentials as green roof gardeners, others are security guards. In response to a 2010 article in The Telegraph about the recurring theft of lead from the roofs of historic buildings, architect Hugh Petter described the unique counter-measure taken by one building owner in York:

“The flat roofs of this historic building are now the home of bees — this keeps the hives away from the public in urban areas, provides delicious honey for the local community and acts as a powerful disincentive for anyone minded to remove the lead.”

Petter reports that once the bees were installed, the thefts stopped. Unfortunately, according to another recent story, such apian theft deterrents might themselves become the target of thieves. Due to colony collapse disorder, honey bees are so rare that bee theft is on the rise. A problem once common to cattle ranchers on the range is now a problem for beekeepers in Brooklyn. And until someone invents a branding iron small enough for a bee, there’s no way to prove that your queen bee was stolen.

“Elevator B,” an architectural beehive designed by students at the University of Buffalo (image: Hive City)

More recently, a group of architecture students at the University of Buffalo decided that, rather than adding bees to their buildings, they would actually design buildings for bees. “Elevator B”  is a 22-ft-tall steel tower clad in hexagonal panels inspired by the natural honeycomb structure of beehives and designed to optimize environmental conditions. Bees don’t occupy the full height of the structure, just a cypress, glass-bottomed box suspended near the top. Human visitors can enter the tower through an opening at its base and look up to see the industrious insects at work while beekeepers can tend to the bees and collect their honey by lowering the box like an elevator. If the stacked boxes of the modern beehive are efficient public housing projects, this is a high-rise luxury tower. Although it should be mentioned that the bees were forcibly relocated from their colony in the boarded-up window of an abandoned building and may very well have been happier there. But such is progress. Apparently even bees aren’t exempt from eminent domain laws. Perhaps this skyscraper for bees will mark a new trend in honeybee gentrification.

The arches of Cooperativa Mataronense (image: wikimedia commons)

Architects have long been fascinated with bees. According to architectural historian Juan Antonio Ramirez architects as different as Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) and Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) drew inspiration from bees and beehives. Ramirez believes that Gaudi’s use of catenary arches in his organic, idiosyncratic designs –first represented in his Cooperativa Mataronesa  factory– were directly inspired by the form of natural beehives. He supports this claim is with the Gaudi-designed graphics that accompany the project: a flag with a bee on it and a coat-of-arms representing workers as bees – a symbol for industriousness and cooperation. Gaudi was building a hive for humans.

Mies van der Rohe’s 1921 Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Project. Codename: Honeycomb (image: wikiarquitectura)

Noted minimalist architect Mies van der Rohe (whose work has been immortalized in Lego) was less inspired by the form in which bees built than by the ideal industrial society they represented. In the aftermath of World War I, a young, perhaps slightly more radical Mies was associated with a group of writers, artists, and architects known as the Expressionists. He published designs for innovative glass high-rises –the first of their kind– in the pages of the Expressionist publication Frülicht. Such buildings, Mies wrote, “could surely be more than mere examples of our technical ability….Instead of trying to solve the new problems with old forms, we should develop the new forms from the very nature of the new problems.” One of the most famous of these early unbuilt designs is the 1921 project nicknamed “honeycomb”. In Ramirez’s view, the angular glass skyscraper is evidence that Mies wasn’t only looking into the nature of the new problems, but looking into nature itself – specifically, to bees. Mies’s youthful belief that architecture could reshape society “brings him closer to the idea of the beehive, because in the beehive we find a perfect society in a different architecture.”

This is seriously the best free picture I could find of Rosslyn Chapel. You should google it. It’s really beautiful and the stone beehives are cool. (image: wikimedia commons)

Architecture’s relationship with bees predates green roof hives, Mies, and even Gaudi. As evidenced by a recent discovery at Rosslyn Chapel, perhaps best known as the climactic location of The Da Vinci Code, precedent for bee-influenced architecture can be traced back to the 15th century. While renovation the chapel a few years ago, builders discovered two stone beehives carved into the building as a form of architectural ornament. There’s just a small entry for bees through an ornamental stone flower and, surprisingly, no means to collect honey. Appropriately, the church is simply a sanctuary for bees. Una Robertson, historian of the Scottish Beekeepers Association told The Times that “Bees do go into roof spaces and set up home, and can stay there a long time, but it’s unusual to want to attract bees into a building…Bees have been kept in all sorts of containers , but I have never heard of stone.” Maybe the 600-year-old stone hive should be a model for urban farmers and green architects everywhere. Instead of adding a beehive to your building, why not design one into it?

Unfortunately, much like the urbanization of the world’s population, urban beekeeping might not be sustainable. Overpopulation and limited resources is a problem for every species. In Europe at least, cities such as London, where there are are 25 beehives per square mile, just don’t have enough flowers to support the rising urban bee population. Perhaps urban bees will ultimately suffer the same inevitable fate as humans: replacement by robot.

Originally published on Design Decoded

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Architecture

Design Decoded: BIG Plans for a Lego Museum in Denmark

big lego house

Still from an animation illustrating the concept behind BIG’s design for Lego House (image: BIG)

Some architects played with Legos as a child. And some never stopped playing with them. Take, for instance, the Copenhagen and New York-based architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) –the architects currently developing a master plan for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C– who have designed two major projects involving the snap together bricks, including a new Lego Museum in the toymaker’s hometown.

Now, bricks are good for two things: building a wall and throwing through a window. Lego bricks aren’t any different, as illustrated by BIG. Though they may not have literally thrown them through any windows (that I’m aware of), the cool playfulness that pervades BIG’s work is a metaphorical brick thrown through the windows of modernism’s glass skyscrapers. BIG’s high-wire high-rise designs, which have more in common with mountain ranges than Manhattan, shatter architectural preconceptions and the aloof, over-serious sensibility that pervades the profession. In less than 10 years, the firm, founded in 2005 by Bjarke Ingels, have blossomed from a scrappy Rem Koolhaas-inspired startup with great PR to a widely recognized, innovative global design practice with major commissions in major cities the world over.

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Architecture

Design Decoded: Would You Like Arches With That? When Famous Architects Design McDonalds

floating-mcdonalds

Photos and drawings of SITE’s floating McDonald’s image (images: SITE: Identity in Density)

Since the late 1960s, when McDonald’s abandoned its iconic, modernist-inspired golden-arched buildings in favor of a separate, golden-arched sign and a decidedly less exciting mansard-roofed structure, it has been rare to mention the words “McDonald’s” and “architecture” in the same sentence. Rare, but not unheard of, as a few notable architects designed some of the franchise’s more exceptional establishments.

But the biggest franchise in the world can afford to take a few risks and have a little fun. In 1983 McDonald’s approached a man named David Bermant to build a new restaurant in the parking lot of one of his Berwyn, Illinois, properties. Now Bermant loved two things: building shopping centers and collecting art. McDonald’s gave him the opportunity to do both. He agreed to let them build with one stipulation – they build something daring.

New York architecture firm SITE was brought in. At the time, SITE was known for bringing a surprising sculptural sensibility to the Best Products retail stores and they brought that same subversive approach to their work for McDonald’s, identifying the standard ingredients, as it were, of a typical franchise –mansard roof, brick exterior, Colonial-style windows, golden arches– and then re-presenting them in a new way. Their design is a subtle subversion on the classic 1980s franchise. All those elements are there, but they’re separated just enough to create the illusion of a “floating” McDonalds. The entire brick level of the mansard roof seems to be separating from the brick structure, which is itself levitating a few feet off the ground, making room for a miniature garden.

Many architects aren’t content with just designing the building – they often want to design furniture, lighting, sometimes even doorknobs and silverware. SITE’s no different, but instead of proposing redesigned plastic benches, they designed a “floating Big Mac” to complement the building. Unsurprisingly, McDonald’s passed on that addition, opting to only construct the SITE design in 1983. Perhaps also unsurprising? The floating McDonald’s no longer floats; when the franchise dulled the design is unclear.

Another significant McDonald’s was built in the 1990s by renowned architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in Buena Vista, Florida.

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