Jim Moses teaching at Roger Williams University School of Architecture Spring 2019

Soft Infrastructure in Fall River

The conception and production of architecture requires a generosity of spirit toward fellow residents of the planet. And because the built environment shares the crust of the earth with all other biomes, architects are, by definition, stewards. To deny this profound truth is to waive a foundational ethic of the profession. But this is at times at odds with, the prevailing mode of economic and political thought, neoliberalism, whose policies are characterized by, among others, privatization, free trade, deregulation, reduced government spending/increased role of the private sphere, etc., a way of thinking which has come to define much about our everyday lives. How does this conflict get resolved?

This studio is premised on the observation that as wealth has become more concentrated in fewer individuals, the quality of the public realm has suffered as public investment in the commons has diminished and responsibility for its maintenance and determination of its highest and best use, transferred to private interests. The neoliberal ethos has left its mark on every biome (indeed outer space is the next frontier for profiteering). A fetishistic consumerism, fueled by the distraction of ‘marketing’ and the imperative of quarterly growth, has shaped our cities. ROI has become the primary driver of the quality of the urban experience.

The underlying question of the studio, then, is ‘What do we want from our cities?’, which are ours to conceive, to build, to live in. What are the places that invite us into the public realm, that let us linger, rather than move us along, allowing us to be in the company of our neighbors, in the broadest sense of that word? Often referred to as social, or soft, infrastructure (distinguished from hard infrastructure: roads, bridges, sewer systems, the power grid, etc.), these are the places that allow a city to be perceived beyond its functions, yet whose function is critical to a democratic society in their ability to teach empathy, leading to trust, the enemy of fear. They engender a culture, not mere civilization.

Despite its headiest slogans (“Architecture ou Rèvolution!”), architecture alone cannot solve society’s ills. But neither can they be cured without it. It is the armature on which we build the meaning of our lives. Our studio will explore soft infrastructure as a prerequisite for a sustainable and resilient culture. Sited across Mount Hope Bay in Fall River, a city that, like many in the country, has present day challenges and a rich history of contributions, the project will be a collection of a number of types of soft infrastructure, interfacing with two existing buildings: the main branch of the public library and the Bank Street Armory, a derelict structure awaiting its next incarnation.


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BBSA starting second phase of work on Drift Road project

With the boat barn and garage under construction on Drift Road in Westport, Big Bend Studio is beginning a second phase of design work there on an addition to the main house. The addition will accommodate a first floor master suite for a couple who plan to ‘age in place’, a trend we are seeing among potential clients. Putting a bedroom suite on the first floor of the house will allow life to be lived at ground level and for the second floor to be occupied by live-in caregivers, when the need arises.

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BBSA commissioned to design Melrose home addition and renovation

BBSA has been commissioned to design an addition and renovation to an early 1940s Cape style house, owned by a young family of four and their large and friendly dog, in a leafy neighborhood in Melrose, an inner suburb of Boston. The addition will contain a rumpus room, gym, kitchen and living room extensions, and a master suite, as well as a front porch and rear patio.

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Sbrega ZNE featured in High Performance Buildings

The latest issue of High Performance Buildings magazine features a piece on the John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building at Bristol Community College. The article focuses on the design process and the design team's holistic approach toward energy efficiency and the goal of zero energy performance, still considered a tall order for a building of this type, normally a significant consumer.

The building in fact performed better, or more efficiently, with a lower energy use intensity (EUI) than predicted by the energy model, producing more energy than it used and putting it in the net positive range for the first year of operation. The New Buildings Institute, which monitors the performance of buildings pursuing zero energy goals, has verified the Sbrega Building's status in its 2018 report.

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Sbrega ZNE featured in Metropolis

The Sbrega Health and Science Building is featured, among other projects, in an article in this month's Metropolis exploring the role of architecture on community college campuses in the US. Among the topics explored are experiential learning, place-making, and identity. Read more here.

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Statement on Mr. Trump's pullout from Paris

Big Bend Studio is disheartened by Mr. Trump’s recent decision to abandon the Paris Agreement, a complex one that the United States played a key role in drafting in 2015, and that, as of today, 148 of 197 parties have ratified. Despite this extraordinarily dubious move, we do not intend to change our way of doing things. As we have seen since the Rose Garden announcement, numerous states, cities, organizations, and individuals have denounced the decision while reaffirming their commitment to the accord. The EU and China appear ready to work with states and cities to do the critical work necessary to stay below the two degree celsius threshold. In the absence of leadership at the federal level, we will continue to promote low and zero energy architecture, encouraging our clients to keep carbon in the ground. The livability of our shared home is at stake.

Meltwater off an ice cap on Nordaustlandet, Norway (Photo: Paul Nicklen)

Meltwater off an ice cap on Nordaustlandet, Norway (Photo: Paul Nicklen)

Boston Architectural College Fall 2017

Jim Moses and Adam Mitchell, who have taught advanced design studios together at the Boston Architectural College since 1998, will teach an advanced workshop, 'Exploring Architectural Themes through Case Study' in the Fall 2017 semester. The course will focus on exploring a particular architectural theme using the case study method to analyze existing, but less studied, buildings by well known architects. Here is an excerpt from the course description: 

The word ‘innovation’ derives from the Latin innovationem, which according to the Etymology Dictionary dates to 1540, and stems from innovatus, past participle of innovare "to change; to renew," from in- "into" + novus "new". It means "a novel change, experimental variation, new thing introduced in an established arrangement". A specific relationship to what came before, a precedent, is implicit in the word. Innovation does not occur in a vacuum, but in context, in this case, a history.

This course takes aim at ‘an established arrangement’, while at the same time understanding that that arrangement may itself represent an innovation. In it, each student will be asked to do a deep exploration, a case study, of a single work of architecture - a building and its attendant landscape - from a list of important, thematically related pieces. The goals are:

  • to luxuriate in getting to know a work of architecture extremely well;
  • to hone analytical skills through curiosity, close observation, and critique;
  • to present findings in a clear, concise, and confident way;
  • to contribute to the collective knowledge of your colleagues and, perhaps, the discipline.

The basis of the case studies will be primary (to the extent available) and secondary documentation (drawings, models, photographs, text). Deliverables will include the range of descriptive/interpretive products that will serve as a kind of de- and reconstruction, and culminating in a final report. Class meetings will take the form of seminars and pin-ups.

While the case study will quite readily, and purposefully, expose the ‘how’ of a particular work, at the same time the operative question will be ‘why?’. Issues inherent to context, intent, construction, and occupation will be unavoidable.
 

Tradeline Features Bristol Sbrega in Geothermal Article

Tradeline has published an article on the use of ground source heat pump technology as a means of reducing or eliminating carbon-based heating and cooling in laboratory buildings. Bristol Community College's Sbrega Health and Science Building is featured as an example of projects that have recently employed the technology successfully as one aspect of a comprehensive set of strategies aimed at achieving zero net energy (ZNE). Tradeline is an organization the promotes innovation in the planning, design and operation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) buildings and environments in both academic and corporate sectors. Read the article here.

Bristol Sbrega Earns 2017 AIA COTE Top Ten Award

Bristol Sbrega has been honored this year with an American Institute of Architects COTE Top Ten Award. According to the AIA, "the COTE (Committee on the Environment) Top Ten Awards is the industry’s best-known awards program for sustainable design excellence. Each year, ten innovative projects earn the prize for setting the standard in design and sustainability." Presentation of the award will take place in Orlando at the annual convention of the AIA, the Conference on Architecture. Read more about the project here: COTE Top Ten 2017.

Bristol Sbrega presented at MED|Ed Conference

The Sbrega Health and Science Building will be presented 5 April 2017 at the annual MED|Ed Facilities conference at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. In a session entitled "A Zero Net Energy Teaching Laboratory - The First 6 Months", Jacob Knowles, Tony Petone, and Chris Widzinski from BR+A and Nathan Butt from Sasaki will discuss the design process, strategies for achieving zero net energy, and performance over the first six months of occupancy using data gathered for the enhanced monitoring and verification systems. MED|Ed Facilities Boston describes itself as "the premier conference for healthcare and educational facilities in New England."