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The Cubicle Reimagined

Transformed by technology, world-class design and a pandemic, the workplace has evolved into much more than a warehouse for employees.

Seas of cubicles long believed to be the model of efficiency in the American workplace — a more advanced iteration of the typing pools that preceded them — presented an uninspiring, even dystopian environment for employees. But then, innovative corporations, led by technology and entertainment industry enterprises, pioneered flexible spaces that look more like resorts than offices. Today, designers continue to push the envelope in an era when some employees are still thousands of miles from headquarters.


Gensler is a global architectural firm whose portfolio includes megaprojects like the 127-story Shanghai Tower (China’s tallest) and Fortune 500 corporate headquarters. Natalie Engels, design director and principal at Gensler, reports that the firm’s own survey research prior to the pandemic revealed the workplace simply was not working, and that COVID was a catalyst for long-overdue changes. “Returning to work provided an opportunity to focus on how teams collaborate, and how to create an inclusive experience for all members, whether participating in-person or virtually,” says Engels, who has reshaped workplaces for Amazon, Hewlett-Packard and Adobe.


Engels explains that more flexibility is being incorporated into workplace design, with assigned spaces for individual work, collaborative spaces for teams, quiet deep- focus spaces away from distractions, and engaging environments for socialization all recognized as essential. The corner office still exists, but Gensler increasingly designs for a more inclusive, team-based dynamic, advises Engels, who states, “The human factor — the need to be around other people regardless of role or title — is driving those decisions.”

Among Gensler’s notable workplaces is Silicon Valley’s corporate headquarters for NVIDIA, the high-flying chipmaker leading the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. Its amenities include diverse dining options, a fitness center and a room for employees to blow off steam with video games powered by NVIDIA’s cutting-edge chips. While technology firms first introduced amenity-rich campuses, Engels notes that food-and-coffee, wellness centers and outdoor spaces are now de rigueur across all industries. While some companies insist on immersing employees in their corporate colors, Engels notes that traditional grays and beiges of workplaces are being replaced by more saturated jewel tones that evoke emotional responses. “Artists from the local community are often commissioned to provide murals or sculptures, which can be quite large, and digital art can create personalized content for specific visitors,” reports Engels.

HOK, another architectural firm with signature projects on multiple continents, has dedicated an entire division to reimagining the office environment. Interior designer Kay Sargent, global director of HOK’s WorkPlace practice, reports, “COVID may have shined a spotlight on it, but the workplace has fundamentally changed over the last decade.” She adds, “It’s no longer a place to sit in one spot all day but a more human- centric environment in which to connect with colleagues.”

Sargent suggests the once-ubiquitous cubicle, which can inhibit productivity, creativity and morale, is disappearing in favor of more fluid seating arrangements. “Not only does the lack of assigned seating maximize real estate, but it also maximizes human efficiency and potential,” explains the veteran interior designer. She adds, “If you’re going to ask workers to return to the office, their leaders have to be there as well, fully accessible and integrated with their staff.” To ensure inviting environments, new workplace designs are laced with elements of hospitality, reports Sargent, who reports the lobbies of some corporate offices are nearly indistinguishable from those of hotels.

If employees are going to be genuinely excited about returning to the office, then the workplace should be as attractive as home. Outdoor spaces, varied culinary offerings, areas accommodating quiet and wellness, and “lifestyle studios” are among the amenities HOK’s recent projects are equipped with, advises Kay Sargent. Even hobbies that employees developed during the pandemic can be enjoyed in the workplace, with commercial kitchens accommodating cooking classes and newly created libraries hosting book clubs. At HOK’s own St. Louis offices, equipment in an architectural modeling studio is now utilized by employees pursuing various crafts adopted while confined to home.


CBRE is an international leader in commercial real estate, and its in-house team of architects and interior designers advise clients on workplace design trends, especially now that employers are requiring workers to return to the office. In the company’s latest U.S. Office Occupier Sentiment Survey, CBRE found that 67 percent of employers indicated they are now more concerned about workplace quality than before the pandemic, with a particular focus on amenities. With commuting top-of-mind, 59 percent of companies favored buildings near public transit, and sustainability issues were particularly important to large corporations with carbon reduction commitments. Sixty-six percent of respondents indicated they were moving away from individual seating assignments toward more flexible spaces that enhance collaboration.


“Workplace design has changed dramatically since the pandemic, and employees have been at the forefront of those changes,” says Karen McCallum, managing director for CBRE’s Design Collective. Insisting the quality of the workplace is a key element in recruiting and retaining top talent, she suggests the office needs to reflect a genuine magnetism. “It has to make you want to get up in the morning, get ready and endure the commute…in other words, working with colleagues in the office needs to be better than home.”

Like her peers, McCallum reports a major shift from assigned to unassigned seating, a concept reflected in CBRE’s “Workplace 360” model for its own offices. “Some level of privacy may be required, but farms of ‘Dilbert cubes’ are generally no longer necessary,” advises McCallum, while noting some private “focus pods” are essential. “It’s really about giving employees a choice about how they desire to work on any given day,” says the designer.

And while many employers have retained plush accommodations for high-ranking executives, McCallum reports, “Some progressive companies have moved toward a transparent, non-hierarchal solution in which executives sit in the same seats as subordinates.” McCallum notes that CBRE clients appreciate open floorplans, which consume less real estate and create more dynamic environments.

“Hospitality-inspired environments, more elevated spaces tailored for employees, create that ‘better than home’ experience,” says CBRE’s McCallum. She states that a wellness room — it can provide an opportunity for yoga, meditation or prayer — has become an almost indispensable feature and savvy employers recognize that once-exotic amenities like specialty juice bars, baristas and pop-up chefs have value. Other designers report that tech- free nap rooms are increasingly common, as evidence suggests short snoozes benefit health and morale, and that there is a legitimate nexus between fitness centers with massage therapy and productivity. Some companies make accommodations for employees who wish to bring their dogs to work.


Technology firms ushered in the amenity- rich workplace but even venerable, old-school companies like Norfolk Southern — with roots in the early 19th century, the railway is hardly a cutting-edge startup — showcase unconventional offices. HOK equipped the corporation’s Atlanta headquarters with a food hall offering eclectic cuisines, daycare center and game room. A focal point of the sleek aesthetics is a sculptural staircase that evokes the very essence of the brand: movement. HOK’s Kay Sargent reports, “Spaces should be a reflection of the culture, representing the brand and connecting people to the mission,” and notes that in addition to the stairway, the graphics at Norfolk Southern headquarters also convey a sense of motion.


With technology clients like PayPal, Dropbox and GitHub, Rapt Studio has developed a reputation for creative office spaces that reflect their clients’ corporate cultures. At the Southern California headquarters of Vans, the sneaker company famous for its iconic checkerboard slip-on, Rapt created a laid-back environment consistent with its ethos, complete with street art and an amenity package that includes a studio for recording music. Skateboarding, integral to the company’s heritage, is an accepted mode of transportation throughout headquarters.

Gensler’s Natalie Engels offers an aspirational characterization of the emerging workplace: “The future of work must be a destination rather than an obligation, and create opportunities for engagement, interaction and fun.”

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Loraloma’s Country Music-Inspired Amenities Set the Stage for Luxury Living

While fans of country music eagerly anticipate the CMT awards on April 7th, this is the perfect opportunity to explore Loraloma – a community that’s not afraid to embrace its country roots.

As the curtains rise on the newest gem in luxury real estate, Loraloma emerges not just as a residential paradise but as a symphony of sights, sounds, and sensations. Nestled just outside the vibrant life of Austin, Texas – a hub of live music, especially country – Loraloma isn’t just a place to reside; it’s a lifestyle where music intertwines with every aspect of daily life. And Unique Homes is taking you on a tour of this harmonious haven.

Loraloma's Country Music-Inspired Amenities

Loraloma will be anchored by an 18-hole championship golf course designed by the celebrated Scottish architect David McLay-Kidd of DMK Golf Designs, who has crafted famed courses such as Bandon Dunes and the Castle Course at St. Andrews. The course at Loraloma serves as McLay-Kidd’s first-ever in Texas, and will stay true to his low-impact, sustainable approach which brings the innate beauty of the land to the forefront.

At the heart of Loraloma’s allure lies its unwavering dedication to music, an ode to the soul-stirring melodies that define Austin’s history. The developers understand that music isn’t just an accompaniment; it’s a way of life. That’s why they’ve curated a variety of music-driven amenities that seamlessly blend high-end living with the rhythm of the city.

Begin by stepping into Loraloma’s state-of-the-art recording studio, nestled in the heart of the community at Limestone Gulch and inspired by the legendary Blackbird Studios in Nashville. With cutting-edge audio technology, writer’s rooms brimming with inspiration, and a listening lounge where melodies come alive, creativity knows no bounds within these walls.

“As a project developed and delivered by designers, Loraloma is telling a new story of luxury. At Loraloma, our future residents are making more than a purchase—they’re choosing an uncompromised way of living. The architects and land planners of Areté are delivering timeless, ecologically sensitive designs that celebrate the natural beauty of the Hill Country and channel the cultural allure of Austin.”

Rebecca Buchan

Co-Founder & CEO, Areté Collective


But the music doesn’t stop there. Venture further, and you’ll find yourself ensconced in the embrace of nature at the private amphitheater, that is practically a part of the natural hillside. Here, under the starlit Texas sky, residents will have easy access to Austin’s thriving music and theater scene.

For those who prefer to feel the rhythm beneath their feet, Loraloma’s Tap House is a vibrant ode to local culture. Here, amidst the strum of guitars, homeowners and members can two-step with friends, savor local brews, and immerse themselves in the nostalgia of vintage arcades.


And let’s not forget the Dance Hall – a homage to Austin’s rich musical heritage and a testament to the memory-making magic of classic Texas dance halls. Whether it’s the lively Texas swing on weekends or the graceful Texas waltz on weeknights, residents need only step outside their door to immerse themselves.

But what truly sets Loraloma apart isn’t just its amenities; it’s the sense of community woven throughout. Seasoned instructors stand ready to guide residents on a journey of self-expression and Texas-sized fun, ensuring that the spirit of music lives on in every dance move and every note played.


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Unique Homes Spring 2024 Issue

As devoted narrators of the extraordinary, the Unique Homes Spring 2024 Issue goes beyond the confines of traditional real estate, captivating our worldwide readership with a look inside some of the most amazing properties on the market and unique insights into the realm of luxury living. 

In this edition of Unique Homes magazine, we present to our readers a distinguished roster of Elite Agents, showcasing their unparalleled expertise and influence in luxury real estate.

Exploring the timeless allure of gold in “All Things Gold,” we are honored to share Lauren Harwell Godfrey’s magnificent gold jewelry collection, and luxury lighting trends that prove this element never goes out of style.

As we contemplate the intersection of luxury and artificial intelligence, Camilla MclLaughlin ponders the potential impact of the technology on the real estate landscape and elite agents in “Luxury: Meet AI.

Embark on a journey through the iconic city that never sleeps in “Urban Opulence in New York,” as we explore the most lavish residences and what’s new. 

Luxury undergoes a transformative redefinition this spring, and we welcome you to explore it in our latest issue.

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The Line

A sleek reflective facade against the gorgeous Saudi Arabian landscape is only the beginning of this futurist urban development that could change city living forever.


THE LINE claims it will be a truly revolutionary metropolis that’s capable of housing 9 million people while only taking up a mere 34 square kilometers. Built with sustainability, new technology, and happier living in mind, this city would differ in more than just looks. Without roads or cars, there would be zero carbon emissions and the community would run on 100% renewable energy, meaning the structure would not only take up less physical space, but also have a significantly reduced environmental footprint.

This masterwork of design would address several of the challenges that cities present, such as lack of outdoor space, overcrowding, and congested traffic, and offer a more comfortable alternative. By dramatically changing urban planning, project leaders hope to put people first, which would alter the way civilization functions as a whole. The vertically layered communities would challenge the traditional flat, horizontal designs and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced livability, according to team members working on the new city.

Still a sprawling metropolis, THE LINE would only be 200 meters wide and 170 kilometers long. However, everything residents need to live, work, and play will be easily within reach. NEOM, the company responsible for THE LINE, is working to address some of the confines and struggles of city living, as well as the environmental effects of a sprawling metropolis. 

With imaginative projects and ideas, the city would limit pollution and encourage a happier way of life. For example, a short five-minute walk would meet everyday needs, while an end-to- end trip of THE LINE would take only 20 minutes. A high-speed rail service would also reduce wait times, commutes, and carbon emissions, already eliminating some of the significant difficulties of city life. The secret to this vertical design is the three-dimensional neighborhoods that are compact and walkable.

NEOM is made up of talented architects, engineers, and construction experts that
are pushing boundaries to make the idea of building upward a reality that makes sense, according to project organizers. Project engineers and architects carefully chose the location for THE LINE, which plans to have unforgettable views and a year-round moderate climate that would also encourage a stronger connection to nature. In addition, THE LINE would thrive in the heart of influential trade routes and a staggering 40 percent of the world is accessible from this point within six hours or less, making it a travel hub for residents and tourists alike.

THE LINE is just one of the projects that NEOM would build to revolutionize the idea of sustainable living. NEOM is 26,500 square kilometers of space in northwest Saudi Arabia across four distinct regions from the coastline to the mountains. The unique location would house four ambitious projects, two cities — THE LINE and Oxagon — and two destinations. Sindalah would be the beautiful island destination, while Trojena is planned to reside among the mountains. These revolutionary projects would utilize the most advanced technology while furthering sustainable practices. Oxagon, for example, would be a marriage of living and innovation where people can come to build, develop, and grow new companies, products, and services. According to the leaders of the economic engine, NEOM will be a place for people near and far to make their impression on the world in creative and innovative ways, and THE LINE only marks the beginning.

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A New Lease on Luxury

At a luxury farm resort, you can rest your head only a few feet from nestling lambs, apple orchards, or dairy cows.


A new kind of vacation trend is sweeping the nation. Seekers of serenity and seclusion are finding it in the pasture, experiencing the tranquility of being tucked away with only the birds to sing them awake. But they’re not roughing it.

Farm resorts are located in rolling hills throughout the country — The High End spoke to three owners in Virginia, Montana, and California. All three are family-owned businesses with powerful histories and a love for the outdoors. “Guests are always wondering ‘What is farming really like?’” says Erin Cowden, owner at Fort Lewis Lodge in Millboro, Virginia. “We are a true working, family farm and consider ourselves stewards of this land.”

The Cowdens have run this operation for decades: Erin says that the farm was first carved out of the wilderness in 1754, and was purchased by their family in 1959. In 1989, they extended the farm into the farm stay that it is now. Three generations of their family have farmed this land, and it continues to be a labor of love.

Fort Lewis Lodge now offers 23 different accommodations, including lodges, silos, and hand-hewn log cabins. There are plenty of ways for guests to join in the collaboration on the farm, but also to rest and relax if desired. Additionally, they are conscious of their carbon footprint, and aim to teach guests about the ways in which they can be more green.

“Our vision: a regenerative farming mindset. We want to return carbon and other missing elements to the soil, support biological diversity, restore a natural, self- supporting system, and produce sustainable, nutritious, and tasty food,” Cowden says. “It’s our hope that guests walk away with a better understanding of where their food comes from.”

They have farm-to-table dining with fresh ingredients, and their own natural mountain spring that provides all of the water for the Lodge. Other unique opportunities are their wood-fired sauna, and the fruits of their fragrant peach trees in late August.

Whatever the garden is growing, they are serving, Cowden notes.

With the same love for their garden, ABC Acres, owned by Tim Southwell and family, operates in Hamilton, Montana. Tim and wife Sarah took the reins of the 80-acre property in 2011, and are seeing business booming as people aim to get outside more.

“The pandemic awakened a misplaced love and appreciation for the natural world,” Southwell recalls, as he talks about the luxury lodging trend. “A farm stay is a slower-paced break from the everyday, where one can take in the sunrise, enjoy a meditative walk in deep thought, and witness the magic and unpredictability only nature can provide.”

On its website, the property titles itself an immersive permaculture preserve, which can be seen through the blooming bananas, pineapples, guavas and more. ABC Acres also runs its own “Honey Operation” and other earthwork tasks.

Here there are also opportunities to join in on farm tasks, or to sit back and relax. Located in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of Montana, the four rental homes for visitors are located near transcendent walking trails and a fully stocked farm shop. Guests can help herd goats and collect chicken eggs, take a day trip on the water to Lake Como, or explore the property’s own Botanical Tropical Greenhouse.

“A farm stay is the vacation,” he notes. “No trips to town or lines for dinner or the local show, just an opportunity to arrive, settle in, and take in the surroundings.”

Another place known for its gorgeous location is temperate Mendocino County, California. Located along the Navarro River and entrenched in robust orchards, Philo Apple Farm is owned by Karen and Tim Bates, who have raised 4 children as skilled farm hands.

The property has three quaint cottages and one “room with a view” (a room above the main dining area) for guests to stay in. Here, the primary production is jams and jellies, but Karen explains that instead of joining in on tasks on the farm, the goal of most guests here is to sit back and simply “do nothing.”

“I think it’s a really good way to experience a place, on a different level than a hotel or even a bed and breakfast,” she says of farm stays. The best time to travel to the Philo Apple Farm is usually the summertime, when the river is glistening in the sun, and is ready for swimmers.

In the cottages, guests can enjoy their own private plunge pools and outdoor showers, morning coffee on their porches, and stroll around the picturesque orchards.


Bates tells The High End that the property also serves as their family compound, where they’re currently working on building a home for one of their daughters and husband. The matriarch of the farm, Sally Schmidt, even has her own cookbook, which has been endorsed by numerous chefs, including the head chef at The French Laundry.

The ultimate goal of any farm stay, and each of these owners, is for guests to reconnect with the natural wonders around them.

“Nature is never dull,” Southwell says. “Whether it’s the first spring rain, baby animals, evening owls, amazing summer storms, or the quietness of winter … there is always something alive and happening … you just need to slow down and look.”

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Frozen Desert

Echo was inspired by astronauts and space travel, and is now a dream destination for polar travelers who want to experience the real Antarctica in comfort and style.


Antarctica has never been more luxurious. Echo, a camp for travelers that is often compared to being off-planet, is made up of futuristic-looking Sky Pods settled in the coldest, most secluded place in the world.

“When Buzz Aldrin visited us many years ago, it’s said he looked out to the snow-covered expanse and told our founder that the continent reminded him of the moon,” says Mindy Roberts, the chief marketing officer at White Desert Antarctica. This conversation sparked the idea that would eventually become Echo.

Appearing as if the whole camp dropped out of the sky, the location offers several pod- like buildings, is equipped with its own private runway, and is only about a five-hour flight from Cape Town. Travel depends on the intense weather patterns common on the continent, but a stay at Echo brings you comfort in the heart of this breathtaking destination. “Each pod is warm, cozy, and inviting with luxurious furnishings and relaxing interiors,” says Roberts. The camp was originally constructed entirely in Cape Town, tested, and reassembled at the final destination hours away to ensure that it could withstand the severe weather conditions. In addition, the Sky Pods are constructed and then removed without a trace at the start and end of every season because they do not operate all year.

Despite the many comforts, guests have easy access to exclusive, intense activities specific to the area. Ice climbing, Arctic truck safaris, Ski-Doo tours, and the chance to see 14,000 Emperor penguins are just a few of the excursions to partake in. The sounds and sights of these beautiful creatures, along with the stunning landscape and unforgettable atmosphere, are truly once-in-a-lifetime.

Many guests are enamored by the hikes that have been tailored to their fitness abilities, or they opt for more strenuous adventures that require more skills. Abseiling with a mountain guide is available, or guests can make the same historic trek that some original explorers made on the Explorer’s Traverse. “From a walk around a frozen lake to summiting a nunatak, there is something for everyone. Beyond the highlights of the Emperor Penguins and the South Pole, I think the most awe-inspiring thing is just being in this incredibly rare silence and unique landscape,” adds Roberts.

Yet, you do not necessarily need to brave the wild, frozen tundra to gain an authentic experience. The Sky Pods and, “the communal spaces, including the dining area and lounge area are comfortable places to sit and chat, curl up with a book, or come together as a group
to discuss the experiences of your day,” says Roberts. The comforts are so complete, that “you could almost forget you’re in Antarctica until you see the incredible views of the mountains bathed in sunlight from the pods.”

White Desert was founded in 2005 by polar explorers after realizing that the real, genuine Antarctica experience was unavailable for most travelers. Now, everything from the interiors of the Sky Pods, with retro space-age detailing and luxurious furnishings, to the artwork and food are part of the camp’s allure and a testament to the land. 

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Templates for the Written World

Fundamentally, libraries are simply communal repositories for books, but that utilitarian function is often expressed in architecture that elevates the human spirit.

The first library was built by the Assyrians more than 2,500 years ago in what is now Iraq, and billions of dollars continue to be poured into the construction of extravagant libraries today, despite our full embrace of the Digital Age. Modern libraries not only provide welcoming public gathering places, but their innovative architecture can excite the imagination before even cracking open a book. Kenneth A. Breisch, Ph.D., associate professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Southern California (USC), has authored several books on the evolution of American libraries, including the lushly illustrated American Libraries 1730-1950. He reports that early American libraries were typically private, with no public access to books, and that the Boston Public Library — its flagship is an imposing Renaissance Revival building (1895) — was the first major institution to lend books to the public.

The grandiosity of library buildings conveyed wealth, explains Breisch, who notes, “In Europe, the concept of library design in the Baroque period was to surround gentlemen readers with a luxurious display of books and architecture.” A prime example is Prague’s stunning library hall (circa 1727) at the Klementinum, originally built as part of a Jesuit complex and now occupied by the National Library of the Czech Republic. Ornate ceiling frescoes by German artist Jan Hiebl, giant globes and spiraled mahogany columns with gilded accents contribute to an environment known as the “Baroque Pearl of Prague.” Some believe this venue is the most beautiful Old World library.

Many of the most inspiring structures in Europe are cathedrals, featuring extraordinary expanses of stained glass, and royal palaces with exquisite ornamentation. However, the continent’s historic libraries reveal architectural achievements equal to those created by any archdiocese or monarchy. Acknowledging
religious architecture’s influence on library design, USC’s Professor Breisch suggests, “In some of the grand libraries in Europe, the forms of the cathedral were adapted for the library, with stained glass replaced by walls of books.”

Some families attempt to visit every major league baseball stadium in a single season, others have more intellectual aspirations. In his book, The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders, author Stuart Kells documents his family’s tour of the world’s great libraries. In this loving treatise of history, architecture and human nature, Kells states, “Every library has an atmosphere, even a spirit. Every visit to a library is an encounter with the ethereal phenomena of coherence, beauty and taste.”

Paris has no shortage of magnificent buildings and a notable landmark in the second arrondissement, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s Richelieu site, is dedicated to books. The building’s Salle Ovale, an elliptical reading room with soaring glass ceiling, long wood tables and cushy club chairs, recently reopened after an ambitious, protracted makeover on the occasion of the library’s 300th anniversary. Equally spectacular, with a ceiling that bookworms equate to the Sistine Chapel, is the adjoining Galerie Mazarin in which priceless maps, postage stamps and manuscripts are displayed for the public.


Mortlock Wing of State Library of South Australia

Midtown Manhattan’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, more commonly known as the main branch of the New York Public Library, is a Beaux-Arts landmark conceived in the late 1890s to compete with the palatial libraries in European capitals. The cavernous Rose Main Reading Room features an ornate, muraled ceiling and two long rows of 1,500-pound bronze chandeliers. “This is one of the great libraries of the world and the reading room is a magnificent space that has been beautifully restored, “ says USC’s Kenneth Breisch.

At the State Library of South Australia, in Adelaide, visitors are awed by the interior of the Mortlock Wing, a stunning example of French Renaissance architecture completed in 1884. The long chamber is surrounded by balconies of wrought iron balustrading with gold embellishment, while the glass-capped roof invites natural light. In contrast, a new era of Australian library design is reflected in community facilities in the Sydney suburbs of Bankstown and Surry Hills. Both were designed by fjcstudio, a firm whose sleek libraries across the country have given reading Down Under new sex appeal. “The building became a truly shared place where the whole community could meet and use in different ways,” explained the design team in a narrative on the Surry Hills library for ArchDaily. The architects, headquartered in Sydney, further noted that it was important for the building to reflect the community’s values.

The Piccolomini Library, inside the Gothic cathedral in the Tuscan city of Siena, was built in honor of Pope Pius II. The most memorable features of the library are not priceless collections of books and manuscripts, but remarkable frescoes lining the walls and ceiling, painted by Italian master Pinturicchio and his workshop at the outset of the 16th century. In the center of the room stands a single marble sculpture, a replica of “The Three Graces.”

As the Australian examples demonstrate, not all great libraries are baroque palaces, and some of the most significant are modern structures whose minimalist tendencies are well suited to the functions for which the library is designed. In the 21st century, with virtually every factoid available at the touch of one’s smartphone or tablet, the role of the library has evolved. Public library administrators report that facilities continue to be well attended, but fewer patrons are passing through their doors strictly to find a book.

Today’s public library has a full calendar of readings and seminars, with musicians, scientists and actors presenting their stories in a place where once only silence was tolerated. Seattle’s Central Library, designed by noted Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA and Seattle-based LMN Architects, opened in 2004. Despite mixed reviews of the monolithic glass-and-steel structure from architecture critics, administrators report that use of the library has far exceeded expectations. LMN Architects partner Sam Miller suggests the library’s unique “book spiral,” a continuous four-story ramp, is a revolutionary way of organizing a multi-floor media collection into a single, continuous loop that retains its organizational structure as the collection grows. USC’s Kenneth Breisch suggests the Seattle facility is an ideal example of a modern library providing full access to virtually the entire collection, a practice its 17th and 18th
century predecessors never anticipated.

“The main floor public space is aptly named the “Living Room” and really functions as such for the city of Seattle,” says Miller. “The library is an extroverted contributor to the life of the city, indoors and out, and welcomes the public into light-filled rooms that astound,” he says. Breisch reports this role of gathering place is another important aspect of the modern library, whose design is more inviting and inclusive than its cloistered antecedents. Oodi, the central library in Helsinki, Finland, is a sleek, sustainable study in glass and wood, with an open-plan reading room on the upper floor nicknamed “Book Heaven.” But this library takes its role as a communal space seriously, incorporating a café, restaurant, movie theater, recording arts studio, and rooms for various creators, whether their medium is a traditional craft or computer-generated 3D printing.

The MVRDV-designed Tianjin Binhai Library in China is among the world’s most futuristic library buildings and its interior is a seductive study in curves somehow squeezed into a more conventional glass exterior. Books are stacked in shelves sleekly integrated into sweeping walls, and a massive, luminescent
globe — it actually serves as a spherical auditorium — is the focal point of a brightly lit atrium.
“We opened the building by creating a beautiful public space inside; a new urban living room is its center,” explains Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV, another cutting-edge Dutch firm that designed this library. “The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting, and discussing. Together they form the ‘eye’ of the building: to see and be seen,” says Maas.

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Cinnamon Shore Unveils Texas-Sized Fun

Hold onto your sun hats because this walkable beach community is taking your coastal dreams to a whole new level with big upgrades.

Port Aransas, Texas, commonly known among locals as Port A, was a quiet fishing town not too long ago. However, with the introduction of a pedestrian-friendly vacation home community and much more, the area’s full potential has been recognized. With 18 miles of uninterrupted wide beachfront on Mustang Island and a carefully curated master-planned community that respects the environment and encourages a small-town feel, Cinnamon Shore is a no-brainer for buyers seeking luxury primary and secondary real estate.  

As the community continues to expand, plans for a vibrant town square, sports courts, spa facilities, and a dog park are all coming to the heart of Cinnamon Shore South. Many of these projects are already underway or breaking ground this summer.

Jodi Peters, the managing broker at Cinnamon Shore Realty, shares, “We’re thrilled to deliver new luxury resort amenities that we promised our residents and guests from the start.” From pickleball courts to fire lounges, Cinnamon Shore South is shaping up to be the go-to spot for those who crave both relaxation and recreation.

What to expect:
Playtime Sports Courts: Get ready for some serious pickleball action, half-court basketball, and a shaded viewing area. And for the little ones, there’s a grassy space for lounging and time in the fresh air.

Neighborly Square Pool: Shaded, private, and oh-so-chic. This pool has it all – tropical landscaping, an over-the-pool water walkway, a fire pit, lounge chairs in the shallow end, and a palm-shaded area for hammocks. It’s the perfect spot to sip your favorite drink and soak up the sun.


New Event Venue: For celebrations, reunions, business meetings, and more, Cinnamon Shore’s got you covered. The new event venue is a landscaped beauty designed for indoor-outdoor gatherings that will accommodate a range of guests. 

Another Neighborhood Pool with Fitness Center: Why settle for one when you can have two? Surrounded by pergolas, palms, and residential cottages, this pool is your new fitness and relaxation haven.

South Dog Park: For your four-legged friends, Cinnamon Shore is introducing the South Dog Park. 

Tailwind Park: A lush garden oasis for homeowners and guests to breathe, relax, and play. With firepits, pebbled paths, and shaded areas, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle.

Still, there’s more! The South Town Square, a project by the award-winning Kimmel Studio Architects, is set to break ground in 2024. With waterfront expertise and a vision for a vibrant coastal gathering spot, it will be the heart of the community.

Whether you’re a current homeowner or dreaming of a Texas-sized slice of paradise, Cinnamon Shore checks all the boxes. Visit the Cinnamon Shore’s blog for the inside scoop on this family-friendly community. 


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Coming Attractions

Some of the most dramatic structures currently under construction — multibillion-dollar projects dedicated to transportation, entertainment and sustainability — will reshape the skylines of American cities while enhancing our quality of life. A selection of transformative projects, some of which have been decades in the planning process, are presented here.

Complex Creations

Christian Brockmann, Ph.D., a professor of construction engineering at the University of Utah, is a specialist in megaprojects and author of Advanced Construction Project Management: The Complexity of Megaprojects. The book cites endeavors from the Pyramids of Giza and Machu Pichu to the Sydney Opera House as megaprojects sharing similar challenges despite being erected in vastly different eras. Some attempt to define modern megaprojects strictly by cost (e.g., $1 billion-plus), but Brockmann insists they be defined by complexity, novelty and use of specific resources, the latter referring to equipment designed specifically for a project.

“The extreme complexity of these projects stretches our cognitive abilities, skills and experience, and when you push the limits of what you can do, you have to accept the possibility of failure,” he explains.

Notes from the Symphony

Professor Brockmann reports that politics regularly interferes with engineering and that the media often shapes public opinion of a project, especially when initial projections of benefit, budget or delivery date are overly ambitious. As an example, he offers Elbphilharmonie, the striking symphony hall in Hamburg, Germany, which experienced a cost overrun of approximately $700 million. “The press was very critical of the project, as it was far beyond budget and time, but when it finally opened the press and public became very positive,” says Brockmann, who notes the venue’s annual economic impact to the city of Hamburg has been quite beneficial.

Emphasizing the value of persistence and improvisation, the megaproject expert states, “Every situation is different and you have to develop a new approach for each one.”

Silver Bullets

Around the world, high-speed rail megaprojects are reimagining a mode of transportation that was viewed as obsolete not terribly long ago. One of the reasons palatial train stations have been repurposed as museums, hotels or shopping malls is that passengers abandoned trains when air travel emerged. But with bullet trains whisking passengers at more than 200 miles per hour, rail service is experiencing a renaissance.

In Asia and Europe, where governments made big bets on high-speed rail decades ago, this form of intercity transportation is ubiquitous. America finally gets into the game with projects moving forward in Florida, Texas and California. The Golden State’s high-speed rail project is so overbudget and behind schedule that many voters who initially favored it have lost interest. But when completed, the $100 billion project will zip passengers at speeds that will be competitive with air travelwhile leaving a negligible carbon footprint.

Theater in the Round

Nearing completion on the Las Vegas Strip is the MSG Sphere, an ambitious 17,500-seat theater developed by Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corporation. When it opens for concertgoers in late 2023, the inaugural act in the largest spherical structure in the world will be U2. The projected price tag of the MSG Sphere, whose construction was disrupted by the pandemic, has reached approximately $2.2 billion.

The “exosphere” (outer shell) will feature a digital canvas that morphs between themes, depending on the season or occasion, while the theater inside will be the first large-scale venue to utilize multi-sensory storytelling to wow concertgoers. It will possess the world’s highest resolution digital screen, 164,000 audio speakers and cutting-edge 4D technologies, including scents and breezes. David Dibble, CEO of MSG Ventures, has stated, “With MSG Sphere, we’re creating an entirely new platform for immersive experiences.”

Bridging Borders

When completed next year, the $5.7 billion Gordie Howe International Bridge will span the Detroit River, a strategic commercial connection between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario. The project’s graceful design reflects a contemporary, minimalist aesthetic and its name honors one of hockey’s most legendary players. The project will streamline the flow of goods and passengers at this critical convergence of Canadian and American interests. “Inspiration for the design was found in the waters of the Detroit River with the rolling waves conveying the senses of passage and gateway,” explains Heather Grondin, vice president, corporate affairs and external relations of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. She adds, “The cable-stayed bridge design is a modern and elegant form with a tower shape inspired by the curvature of a hockey stick in a slap shot — a nod to Gordie Howe.”

Located steps from the new PGA headquarters<br />
is the sprawling Omni PGA Frisco Resort.

Links Unlimited

Opening this spring, steps from the new Professional Golfers Association (PGA) headquarters outside Dallas, is the Omni PGA Frisco Resort. Two 18-hole championship courses will be accompanied by a lighted par three course and two-acre putting green, complemented by diverse dining, retail and entertainment experiences.

The hotel component will feature 500 guest rooms and suites, 10 four-bedroom ranch houses, a rooftop infinity pool and full-service spa. With versatile indoor-outdoor spaces accommodating special events, the $520 million complex represents a true golfer’s paradise in the Lone Star State. “Omni PGA Frisco is an ambitious new resort concept for the state of Texas,” says Jeff Smith, vice president and managing director for the Omni PGA Frisco Resort. He adds, “The sprawling complex provides an unparalleled experience for those who are advanced players, new to the game, and everything in between.” Another megadevelopment in Frisco, Texas, was recently announced: a new theme park from Universal Studios.

St. Regis Chicago

Windy City Glam

While the Omni PGA Frisco Resort rambles over 600 acres, the St. Regis Chicago soars 101 stories in a city already home to iconic skyscrapers. Clad in undulating glass, the design is a product of hometown firm Studio Gang, whose founder Jeanne Gang is one of the world’s most prominent female architects. A project of Magellan Development Group, the structure will house luxury condominiums in addition to an elegant St. Regis hotel. Featuring an allocation of green space atop each of its distinct tiers, the building allows greater connectivity with the environment and the city around it.

“The St. Regis Chicago is a work of art and is already a spectacular addition to the Chicago skyline,” maintains Rob Pontarelli, Magellan’s senior vice president of marketing. “The St. Regis Chicago is an architectural wonder inspired by a crystalline form found in nature and serves as Chicago’s premier destination, offering ultra-luxury living, five-star lodging, service and dining,” he adds.

Intuit Dome

Techy Arena

Major league sports venues frequently rank among the most expensive construction projects in the nation, yet many reflect uninspired designs. However, the Intuit Dome that will be home to the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers features a memorable, futuristic design that pairs well with SoFi Stadium, also located in the L.A. suburb of Inglewood. And in an era when local taxpayers fund sports arenas, the $2 billion Intuit Dome is privately funded.

Inside, a wraparound, double-sided “halo” display board will feature an immersive digital canvas featuring 38,375 square feet (more than 233 million LEDs), while VIP “courtside cabanas” and “halo suites” will provide the ultimate luxury experience for sports fans and concertgoers. “This is going to be an unbelievable building, a great experience to come into,” states NBA Hall of Famer and Clippers consultant Jerry West.

Made in America

Semiconductor chips are essential to computers and smartphones, as well as automobiles, household appliances and medical devices. Therefore, manufacturing those items domestically — almost 90 percent are currently imported from overseas — is critical to the U.S. economy and national security.

Last year, Congress authorized more than $50 billion to the semiconductor industry, a catalyst for a flurry of announcements by large manufacturers. Intel is spending $20 billion to construct a manufacturing facility in Ohio, while Micron Technology and Qualcomm have also made multibillion-dollar commitments to manufacture advanced chips in the U.S. “Today marks a pivotal moment in the journey to build a more  geographically balanced and resilient semiconductor supply chain,” remarked Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger at the Ohio groundbreaking.

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Spiritual Transformations

By Roger Grody

Places of worship are designed for a very specific function, so when they are abandoned — parishioners migrate elsewhere or structures become physically compromised — it is challenging to repurpose the buildings. But designers who appreciate the heritage of sacred sites achieve extraordinary transformations, retaining a sense of spirit even when the buildings are readapted for less virtuous activities.

As congregations have declined, some neighborhood churches in Boston have been decommissioned, leading to creative conversions into luxury condominium projects. Representing one of the most dramatic of those adaptive reuses is The Lucas, a sleek high-end condominium building rising from the Gothic form of Holy Trinity German Catholic Church, originally constructed in 1874.

Holy Trinity had been vacant for a decade, so the city allowed an ambitious developer to erect a bold, eight story steel-and-glass tower within the granite and puddingstone masonry shell of the historic structure, with five floors rising above the original roofline of the sanctuary. While the new construction may sound incompatible with the Gothic structure, Finegold Alexander Architects designed the new addition to be discretely tucked behind the original façade.

A landmark church in Boston has<br />
been boldly repurposed as The Lucas,<br />
a luxury condominium project.<br />
Preservation of the original Gothic<br />
façade honors the historic site while<br />
retaining a human scale.

Tony Hsiao, principal and director of design at Finegold Alexander, suggests that churches, with their unique detailing and large windows, make transformations into luxury condominiums a natural progression, and reports The Lucas was sold-out prior to completion. Ellen Anselone, principal and vice president at the Boston-based firm, submits that despite the project’s bold infusion of modernism, it was sensitive to the neighborhood. “By preserving the façade, this project maintains a neighborhood scale and is consistent with the fabric of the neighborhood,” she says, noting that residents were pleased the abandoned building was redeveloped and appreciated that the new use was residential.

The visible stories of the modern addition are stepped back, reducing its visual impact, and creative design elements further harmonize the tower with the 19th century structure. “The inspiration was to integrate the new with the old, tying the new structure to the historic framework,” explains Hsiao. “The steel buttresses on the new tower were derived from the buttresses in the original Gothic architecture,” he adds.

Severe earthquake damage threatened demolition of Los Angeles’ Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, but preservationists ultimately saved the 1876 landmark. A new, modern cathedral was erected a few blocks away, and beloved Saint Vibiana was masterfully repurposed for less pious entertainment. The restored architecture Italianate structure now houses Redbird, the restaurant of acclaimed L.A. chef Neal Fraser, and Vibiana, an adjoining event space.

Redbird, one of the<br />
LA's top restaurants.

Amy Knoll Fraser, the chef’s wife and owner/operator of Redbird and Vibiana, recalls her first tour of the building in 2008, when she learned the owners of the property were looking for a restaurant to fill the historic space. “I froze, got chills and thought, ‘We have to do this’…I knew we were the ones to transform it.” The couple felt obligated to pay reverence to one of L.A.’s most historic buildings by offering a dining experience that balances tradition, innovation and cultural L.A.’s Saint Vibiana, a historic Italianate cathedral, has been reimagined as Vibiana, an event venue, and Redbird, one of the city’s top restaurants.

L.A.’s Saint Vibiana, a<br />
historic Italianate cathedral,<br />
has been reimagined as<br />
Vibiana, an event venue,<br />
and Redbird, one of the<br />
city’s top restaurants.

Working with designer Robert Weimer, who collaborated with the couple on previous restaurants, a design was conceived that introduces contemporary components while still paying homage to the existing architecture. “We viewed the original as a backdrop for the adapted use, lovingly placing the new elements within,” explains Weimer.

Emphasizing the intention was to complement the original architecture, not transform it, the designer states, “The added pieces are modern and crisp, and together with the slightly worn edges of the original historic building, the space has a dynamism and dialogue it wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

A cliffside monastery on Italy’s Amalfi Coast was splendidly transformed into<br />
Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa, a world-class boutique hotel.

Redbird’s dining room, a soaring space capped by a galleria-like glass ceiling, occupies what was originally Saint Vibiana’s rectory. It hosts a trendy clientele enjoying dishes like beef tartare with kimchi aioli and egg jam, or California sea bass with fregola and mussels in saffron-scented tomato broth. Knoll Fraser reports, “Neal’s cooking has always been a celebration of the multiculturalism of our city and we feel the property deserves to remain a place of community.” Chef/owner Neal Fraser suggests, “The architecture told us how to design the space and the menu,” and observes, “People love the fact the building is historic, but doesn’t feel like a museum.”

Occupying a landmark 1859 church in Portland, Maine, is Trine Events at Grace, hosting weddings, nonprofit banquets and corporate events. Noting the history of the building is what distinguishes the venue, owner Anne Rutherford states, “It’s impossible to be in the space without feeling the hum of almost 200 years of gathering, celebration, reverence and community.”

The Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa offers breathtaking views<br />
of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

It is not uncommon for churches, convents or monasteries to be reimagined as boutique hotels and Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa on Italy’s idyllic Amalfi Coast is a particularly stunning example. A restored 17th-century monastery, the hotel hugs a rugged cliff above the Tyrrhenian Sea, offering breathtaking views from its Michelin-starred restaurant and infinity pool. The property’s 20 rooms and suites, housed in what were originally the nuns’ quarters, provide the kind of sanctuary that is impossible to find in a large cosmopolitan hotel.

Although historic churches and monasteries may not be intrinsically well-suited to be repurposed as luxury hotels, Monastero Santa Rosa’s front office manager Pompeo Amendola believes this site demonstrates the enormous potential of such conversions. “These properties offer the unique opportunity to create specialized spaces and curated experiences that provide a genuine sense of place otherwise unavailable to guests,” he maintains.

Amendola reports a team of architects and historians collaborated on the restoration of Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa. “The main focus was to revive the spirit of Santa Rosa, creating modern-day experiences for the most discerning traveler while maintaining elements of its storied past,” he explains. One small but poetic example of connecting guests to the site’s history is a celebration of the monastic order’s legendary baking heritage. A sweet cream-filled pastry known as sfogliatella Santa Rosa originated at the monastery and is still baked on-site, placed in breadbaskets for guests to enjoy at breakfast.

In the Peruvian Andes, the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco is built on the site of a 16th century convent.

In the Peruvian Andes, the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco is built on the site of a 16th century convent. At the hotel’s reception desk is a massive, sculptural lighting fixture (handcrafted from 76,500 Swarovski crystals) that represents the God of the Sun in Incan iconography, a further reminder that this hotel was really 500 years in the making.

Another historic South American convent housing a luxury hotel is the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara, located in the historic district of Cartagena, Colombia, a short walk to the ocean. The property successfully blends modern amenities with the spirit of the original 17th century convent. Its 1621 restaurant, for instance, occupies the Clarist nuns’ former dining room, but now features refined French technique applied to local ingredients.

“Our experiences are truly unique,” states Carmen Otero, sales and marketing director of the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. She notes that colonial Cartagena has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and that the guest experience at the hotel is fully integrated into the ancient city’s rich history. “In all of our spaces we’ve involved local culture, which allowed us to retain the magic that can only be expressed in this place with 400 years of history,” explains Otero. Elaborate ocean-view suites tastefully blend the site’s religious history with the decadence of pure luxury.

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