Perkins+Will, a global leader in sustainable architecture, hosts a Design Leadership Council (DLC) every year. Speakers, seminars, and competitions bring attention to critical design challenges and spotlight emerging talent from within the firm and without. This year, Perkins+Will partnered with ALI to challenge architects to address the water crisis facing cities like Los Angeles.
For a site adjacent to the LA River, architects from Perkins+Will offices around the world were invited to grapple with the functional and expressive potentials of architecture within a parched climate. The program: "House of Retention," a hypothetical new 40,000-square-foot home for the Arid Lands Institute, designed to capture, store, recycle, treat, and infiltrate every drop of water on this heavily urbanized site.
For its fictional new home, ALI's wish list included design studios, research labs, flexible public spaces for indoor and outdoor gatherings, a small library, field study equipment and storage, short-term accommodations for visiting students, and offices for teaching and research fellows. Beyond space requirements, ALI's requests were consistent with its mission and research agenda. We sought design innovation that:
• uncouples water from energy;
• anticipates variability: short periods of extreme abundance and long periods of scarcity;
• exploits the full expressive potential of water systems as architectural and urban form; and
• inspires a water-conversant society across generations, cultures, and sectors.
Inspired by the archeological traces of societies that have coped, struggled, thrived, adapted, flourished, dispersed, disappeared, and reconfigured in the face of climate fluctuations throughout the course of history, ALI sought an architecture that not only meets the challenges of its time, but anticipates its own (d)evolution as a future archeology.
Design teams were given one weekend—from Friday at 5 pm to Monday at 8 am—to respond. Fifty-nine teams from twenty-three Perkins + Will offices worldwide submitted proposals. On Thursday, September 19th, jurors met to assess the submissions and select three winners and four honor awards. Jurors included Norman Millar, AIA, Dean of Woodbury School of Architecture; Renee Dake Wilson, AIA, President, LA City Planning Commission; Ella Hazard, AIA, Principal and Hazard Frankel Architects; Patrick Tighe, FAIA, FAAR, Principal of Patrick Tighe Architecture; and Lewis MacAdams, poet and founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River. Entries were evaluated for their overall design excellence as well as supporting concepts, sustainability and material health, level of innovation, and effectiveness of communication. Winning submissions excelled at providing a clear vision and defined design objective.
First Prize: Water Towers by Doug Bergert, Anne Smith, Alec Sands (Minneapolis)
Second Prize: River Walk by Danny Mui, Alan Mui (Chicago)
Third Prize: CONFLUENCE: A Hydrological Research Park by Libby Farley, Sandra Yencho, Stephanie Yu (New York)
Merit in Urban Design
EBB//AND//FLOW by Kaz Bremner, Aaron Knorr, Yehia Madkour (Vancouver)
Merit in Water Tectonics
A Hydro-Culture Community by Martin Lariviere (Toronto)
Merit in Poetry and Landscape
Faux Riparian by David Bradshaw, Laura Arreola, Glen Chan (San Francisco)
Merit in Flexibility
TRANS-ENVIRONMENT by Gong Zheng, Shen Jun (Shanghai)
See all submissions here.
ALI hosted a one-day pop-up exhibition of the competition entries on Saturday, September 27th at Woodbury. On Wednesday, October 15th, ALI joined Perkins + Will at their offices for a more detailed look at the work and a discussion of climate adaptation and design innovation in Los Angeles.
Download the design brief, below.