August 15, 2008
  SOM-Designed U.S. Embassy Opens in Beijing on August 8
Former President George H. W. Bush spoke at the dedication ceremony marking the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing on August 8, the same day the World Olympics opening ceremony welcomed the world to the one-time Forbidden City. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the 500,000-square-foot complex accommodates 600 employees and is the second largest embassy ever constructed in U.S. history (only our embassy in Baghdad is larger). Created by SOM’s San Francisco-based team led by Design Partner Craig W. Hartman, FAIA, the design eschews a single tower in favor of a collection of stone, concrete, and glass low- and mid-rise buildings set in a series of gardens on a 10-acre site.

AIA Architect Renker Testifies to House Small Business Committee Against Fee Retainage

Revision of regulation would level federal playing field for small firms

Paul Renker, AIA, from St. Petersburg, Fla., testified on July 30 before the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Regulations, Health Care, and Trade, during a hearing to explore federal regulatory burdens to small business. This hearing follows the February 2008 announcement by the Small Business Administration (SBA) of its 2008 Top 10 Rules for Review and Reform, an initiative designed to identify and address existing federal regulations creating barriers to small business that should be reviewed and may need revision.

Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects’ Wabi Sabi House Unites the Manmade and the Natural in Houston
Rick Sundberg, FAIA, continues Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects’ trademark tradition of uniting building with natural surround with his design of the Wabi Sabi House. The house, designed on spec for developer Carol Isaak Barden + Company, is in Houston, a new venue for Sundberg and a far cry environment-wise from the firm’s native Seattle. In the Zen tradition, wabi sabi is a Japanese expression that implies the restrained expression of the humble and the simple; serenity and calm, as well as love and respect for nature. The house itself commingles Eastern and Western aesthetics into a serene blend of “the work done by nature and the work done by man.” Close to Rice University in a traditional neighborhood near Houston’s cultural heart, the 3,750-square-foot, three-bedroom wood house, creates simple forms of natural materials, including naturally aged cedar siding, bamboo, and salvaged teak. Old-growth trees on the site were preserved and provide focal points for the strategically placed windows, while an outside deck flows around a pecan tree. Skylights in the building’s center, operable windows, and an expansive roof deck allow for natural light and ventilation, offering a sustainable statement in “the most air-conditioned city in the U.S.” Carol Isaak Barden + Company plan to build a series of Wabi Sabi houses in Houston. Photo © Don Glentzer.

Melissa and Zaha—Shoe La La!
Melissa, the eco-conscious, hip and happening plastic (vegan!) shoe company based in Sao Paulo, announced August 4 that it has commissioned Pritzker Prize-winner Zaha Hadid to create a limited-edition shoe that will be released in September. It is the first time the architect—whose internationally renowned projects and commissions range from the Guggeheim Hermitage Museum in Lithuania to the Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck, Austria, to the London Aquatic Centre, which will be built for the 2012 Olympics—has ventured into the footwear forum. The shoe is described by Melissa as consisting of “rounded sculptures, harmonized lines, and symbiotic openings.“

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This is where you will find the latest happenings in the Institute, the profession, and the wider world of building design and construction. The News Zone also carries commentary from AIA elected representatives as well as major new commissions, completions, and openings.