Search results for "Atlanta"

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Another Rail Yard Story

Atlanta council members green light controversial $5 billion Gulch project
It’s official. Atlanta is about to take on one of the most ambitious and controversial building projects in its history. Last Monday, in a midnight vote before election day, the Atlanta City Council approved a $5 billion proposal to redevelop “The Gulch,” a 40-acre swath of sunken rail yards and parking lots in downtown Atlanta. Thanks to the decision, CIM Group, the Los Angeles-based agency that’s been eyeing the site for some time, will now likely receive a large government subsidy as the sole bidder on the project. CIM’s big plans for The Gulch came to light last November when people started speculating the meaning of an impact fee assessment filed with the city that month, which proposed the redevelopment of over 10 million square feet of publicly-owned land next to the Philips Arena. Over time, it became evident that CIM, a company founded by the brother of Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler, was responsible for the filing and wanted to offer The Gulch to the city as part of Atlanta’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. Despite news that Amazon will definitely not be coming to Atlanta, it seems that CIM’s plans to revitalize The Gulch are still underway. The scope of the project is nearly unparalleled, comparing only in size to Manhattan’s 28-acre Hudson Yards neighborhood and CIM’s 27-acres Miami Worldcenter development. Within The Gulch, the developer aims to create 9 million square feet of office space, one million square feet of retail, as well as room for residential and hospitality. The “mini city within the city” will sit atop a podium of parking garages and connect with a new grid of streets and parks. It could include more than a dozen new buildings, completely reshaping the city’s skyline. Newly-elected Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is a large supporter of the project. Leading up to last week’s vote, she started a massive campaign to “Greenlight the Gulch,” asking for the public and the city council to approve the around $1.9 billion subsidy package for the private project. In a tight 8-6 vote, her plan won out. Though the government is now on board, many locals aren’t game. Critics of the project say the area should be dedicated to a new transit hub (an idea that started in 2012), while others argue that an increase in luxury housing will raise rents and property taxes in low-income communities near downtown. While Bottoms's proposal requires CIM to build at least 200 units of affordable housing within The Gulch and invest $28 million into a citywide trust fund for affordable housing, some still hope for a better deal. Many say the process for approvals has been rushed and the public hasn’t gotten enough say. Since CIM’s plans were unveiled last year, things have moved at an unprecedented speed. Even opponents seem eager to build something in The Gulch, but only if it benefits the city, not the just owners who develop it. Given CIM’s large-scale goals for the site, this will be a fight with the public for decades to come.
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More MARTA

A historic $2.7-billion plan will expand Atlanta’s MARTA transit system
Last week, Atlanta’s notoriously dysfunctional mass transportation authority, MARTA, released a $2.7-billion expansion plan that will extend its services from the city center via light rail, bus rapid transit, and arterial roadways. The announcement marks the largest development strategy made by the organization in decades. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the 40-year plan, “More MARTA,” was approved by the authority's board of directors in a unanimous vote on Thursday. Officials have agreed to dole out money to 17 projects across the city, allocating large sums to the Beltline and the Clifton Corridor, the latter of which will include four miles of light rail service from the Lindbergh Station to a new station at Emory University. In total, 29 miles of light rail will be built throughout the city, as well as 13 miles of new bus lines. Three arterial rapid transit routes serving both the north and south sides of Atlanta will be built out as well, making 20-to-30 minute trips much faster. Station improvements along the MARTA rail line will also be made over the next few years. Initial plans for the major expansion were announced in May, but significant adjustments were made leading up to the final decision after Beltline advocates pushed for more money for public transit along the 22-mile loop. The light rail addition has long been in the works for the famed urban park and trial. Further tweaks were also made to extend train and bus lines more effectively into some of Atlanta's 10 outlying counties. In recent years, several have voted to join MARTA, further incentivizing the transportation organization to provide high-capacity services to the outer regions. Atlanta is the third fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and it has suffered from poor public transportation. A report put out by the U.S. Census Bureau in March revealed that nearly 90,000 people moved to the city from 2016 to 2017, bringing the total population to approximately 5.8 million people. It’s the largest single-year growth gain since the Great Recession. These scores of people are moving to Atlanta largely for jobs—77,300 were added last year—but not everyone is living in the areas where mass transit is already available for their daily commutes.
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Lichtvorführung

Marcel Breuer’s Central Atlanta Library to feature light show on its facade
Marcel Breuer’s dark and boxy Central Atlanta Library will literally light up this fall with projected images chronicling the city’s hip-hop and experimental music scene. Curbed Atlanta reported that URBANSCREEN, an artist collective from Germany, will design a light show on the Brutalist building’s hulking facade beginning October 5. The 250,000-square-foot concrete public library is situated at the corner of Forsyth and Williams Streets and is currently undergoing a controversial $50 million renovation by local firm Cooper Carry. URBANSCREEN’s “Superposition” installation will bring temporary color and motion to the exterior as part of the Goethe-Institut’s “Lightart Meets German Architecture” project. In partnership with the organization, the artists will illuminate two other iconic German-American pieces of architecture outside of Atlanta: the Athenaeum in Indianapolis and the German ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. Not only is the project a celebration of these enduring buildings, but it is also a chance to reflect on the history of German architecture in the U.S. and what that means to the countries’ relationship today, according to URBANSCREEN. For Atlanta, digital art, dance, and music will be integrated within the project “to unite several universal languages that transcend geographical definitions,” says a press release cited by Curbed. In an interview with the Goethe-Institut, the URBANSCREEN team described their inspiration for the projection on the Atlanta library. “We first had an entirely different idea, but then changed our minds completely when we arrived on site,” said Majo Ussat. “Now we are presenting a highly graphical projection in collaboration with local youth groups who will dance hip-hop—a kind of 'Bauhaus meets hip-hop.'" The team will install four projectors around the library, some in a nearby building and on the roof of a gallery, since the surrounding block is too tight to set them up efficiently. Per Curbed Atlanta, the event will also include a street festival replete with food and beer trucks. The revamp of the Central Library, as well as the light show, signals a rededication to the historic architecture scene of Atlanta. Back in 2016, the city was considering demolishing the building, but local and national preservationists came to the rescue. Cooper Cary’s retrofit will transform 50,000 square feet of the library into private, leasable space in an attempt to enhance its program. On August 24, the site was unanimously voted to the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Georgia Register of Historic Places by the Georgia National Register Review Board.
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Off Pitch

A new house in Atlanta raises the potential for roof-oriented design
A new exhibit at the Yale School of ArchitectureAdjacencies uses a multi-media approach to tell the story of various strange and tactile projects from 14 emerging firms around the country, and the show highlights a one-of-a-kind, ground-up residential project that’s set to open in Atlanta later this fallHaus Gables, designed by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, is a single-family home under construction along the Atlanta Beltline and a playful and surprising reinvestigation of the architectural zeitgeist using an exaggerated roof plan. The house is broken down in detail at Yale through a series of bright models, drawings, and ephemera that unveil her design philosophy for this inspired and irregular building. According to the architect, the project was influenced by Le Corbusier’s free plan and Adolf Loos’s raumplan—both residential design methods that called for unconventional interior spacing. Bonner’s aim was to “rework the spatial paradigms of the past” by organizing her architecture solely around the roof. She designed Haus Gables, a 2,100-square-foot structure, with six gable roofs that form one elongated canopy. The unique shapes of the resulting ceilings produced an interior filled with oddly-sized rooms, catwalks, and double-height spaces that are confined to the steep ridges of the pitched roofs. The idea for Haus Gables formed out of a 2014 course she taught at Georgia Tech School of Architecture, according to an interview with Curbed Atlanta. Bonner worked with students to imagine designs centered around individual architecture components. This exercise led Bonner to create her massive Domestic Hats exhibition for Atlanta's Goat Farm Arts Center, for which she studied Atlanta’s various roof typologies and created 16 models with alternative roof forms that challenged traditional domestic design. While Adjacencies provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Bonner specifically conceived the Haus Gables project, the real-life version is nearly complete on an 18 foot-wide plot of land in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Not only is the design itself unusual, but so are the materials specified for the project. Most notably, it features a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure, the second of its kind in the United States, and prefabricated components that were quickly put together on site over the last year.   Haus Gables, once complete, will also include extensive faux finishes on the exterior and interior. From the black terrazzo to the marble and brick, nothing will be real, but everything will be cost-efficient. Bonner even plans to conceal the CLT in an effort to mimic, yet bring a contemporary twist, to the Southern architectural tradition of DIY and “faking it.” An inside look at the production of Haus Gables will be on view in Adjacencies, curated by Nate Hume, at the Yale Architecture Gallery through November 15. Bonner will give a gallery talk alongside the other featured designers this Thursday, September 13, at 6:30 p.m.
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Designing for Dignity

Design for Good exhibit to open at the Museum of Design Atlanta
A new exhibition at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) will press people to consider the ways in which architecture can bring dignity to those who need it most. Design for Good: Architecture for Everyone will open September 23 and will showcase real-world stories about structures designed by firms that put people first. Based on the 2017 book Design for Good, the show will be curated by the author, John Cary, an architect, writer, and curator. Cary envisions a more diverse industry that’s dedicated to designing for the public good. His seminal book led him to speak at a TEDWomen conference last November where he highlighted the narratives of the architects and clients around the world who participated in the featured projects. Similar to his book and TED Talk, Cary’s MODA exhibition will focus on why everyone deserves good design no matter their economic status, race, or geographic location. He’ll display the work of firms like Studio Gang and MASS Design Group as well as the stories of the people whose lives have been affected by their buildings.    Design for Good: Architecture for Everyone will run through January 12 with an opening reception on Saturday, September 22 at 5 p.m. Tickets are available here.
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Level Up

Thyssenkrupp’s new Atlanta tower will test advanced elevator technology
International elevator and industrial company thyssenkrupp has revealed plans for a new headquarters complex in Atlanta that include both tower space for over 900 employees and a testing tower for the company’s experimental elevator systems. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Americas will be building the campus adjacent to The Battery Atlanta, a commercial and entertainment district developed by the Atlanta Braves and anchored by SunTrust Park. Thyssenkrupp reportedly has the go-ahead from the Braves for their “Innovation Complex," and the Braves Development Company is a partner on the project. The complex will include three buildings, including the 420-foot-tall testing and qualification tower as the project’s centerpiece. The test tower is slated to have a variety of uses; besides safety testing normal elevators, the company plans on using the 18-shaft tower to field test its rope-less MULTI system and the TWIN system (where two elevator cabins are stacked in the same shaft). Thyssenkrupp is no stranger to constructing technologically-advanced test towers, as the company completed an 800-foot-tall, spiralized structure in Rottweil, Germany late last year. The complex’s two other buildings will serve as more traditional office spaces and, judging from the renderings, will be clad in a glass curtainwall. The corporate headquarters is slated to be 155,000 square feet and will hold thyssenkrupp’s engineering and training offices, as well as space for company events and offices for executives. The remaining 80,000-square-foot building will house the administrative offices and shared services division. When the testing tower is complete, it will be the tallest of its kind in North America. The elevators the company wants to refine aren’t just science fiction, either; Atlanta’s CODA Building will contain North America’s first TWIN elevator system when the project is completed next year. The Development Authority of Cobb County has approved the sale of $264 million in bonds to help fund the project, and it's expected to bring up to 650 new jobs to Atlanta, so barring any major stumbles, the complex should be complete in early 2022.
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Brutal Truths

Architect wants to add more windows to Breuer’s Brutalist Atlanta library
This week, architects presented revised plans for the renovation of Marcel Breuer's Central Library in Downtown Atlanta to Fulton County officials and members of the public. The new scheme adds large windows to the building's lower stories, and converts some of the library's common areas into spaces that will be rented out by private interests. At that meeting, Tim Fish of Atlanta firm Cooper Carry previewed design and programmatic changes to the 1980 building. The firm plans to add an atrium and more windows to the front of the building, in addition to upgrading the electrical and mechanical systems. While the 250,000-square-foot library is exclusively public property now, the renovations will convert 50,000 square feet into private, leasable space. Library officials are hoping to rent the ground and second floors to restaurant or university tenants. The portions of the seventh and eighth floors that aren't taken up by mechanical equipment will be rented out to private interests, too. Back in 2016, the city wanted to scrap the Brutalist building and replace it with a contemporary structure. But after an outcry from preservationists in Atlanta and all over the country, the city decided to renovate the library instead. The renovation is expected to cost $50 million in total, and bids for construction work will go out next month. The SaportaReport noted that many residents at the meeting spoke out against the windows scheme, and questioned the need for more natural light, especially as adding multiple windows to an existing building is an expensive proposition.
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1924 - 2017

John Portman was an iconic Atlanta architect who redefined urban interiors
John Portman told me that when he was a little boy, he was so poor that he didn’t have any toys, so he played in his backyard by making imaginary cities out of mud piles and old glass Coca-Cola bottles. I recall going with him to the incredible artist’s foundry Polich Tallix in upstate New York to check on the progress of a sculpture he was creating for one of our projects in India. This massive sculpture was underway, and after looking it over, Dick Polich took Portman over to some clay forms he’d set up, and Portman started playing with them. He was like that. He just loved to create, and was in his zone when he did. There was a movie made about Portman by Ben Loeterman called A Life of Building, and in it, Portman kind of dramatically says, “It’s about life!” He’s obsessed with creating and sustaining life, in his architecture and in his way of being. Going down to his house Entelechy II, on Sea Island in Georgia, you can see it there, everywhere. The building is essentially a big trellis with a lanai under the front half and a sculpture of indoor and outdoor spaces in the back. But the entire home is teaming with life, plants, vines, blooming, living material everywhere. The building is probably his most formally complex project, but it almost seems foremost like an armature for the plants. It’s pretty well known among Portman’s family and the people in his companies that he was inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frank Lloyd Wright. The story of how a young John Portman went to see Wright when he came to Atlanta was told when he was eulogized last week. Portman told me that story about ten years ago, but he told it differently. And the difference tells you a lot about his personality. Portman said, “I heard the Great Master was coming to Atlanta. So, I went and stood in this huge line for hours and hours to see the Man. Finally, my turn came. He was sitting there, and I inched up to him and said, ‘I want to be an architect. What should I do?’ and after all this time in line, he looked at me and said, ‘Go seek Emerson.’ Pause…‘Next.’” Portman was funny, and humble, self-deprecating, and had a real admiration for people, like Wright and others. At the memorial, they left out the “Next,” and maybe that was appropriate for the somber nature of the event. But when you hear Portman tell the story, it’s funny and endearing to imagine him, this Great Master in his own right, being shooed away by Wright all those years ago. But he did seek Emerson. He found a way of living that was rooted in self-reliance, and an ecumenical appreciation for life that permeated his architecture and his relationships. He took a group of us to see Wright’s Fallingwater in 2012. I think it was his way of pointing us toward Emerson and Wright and helping us to see, feel, and experience firsthand some of what he knew. It was raining, and the house is pretty deep in the woods, and the one iconic view that you get in all the photos is from down in a ravine. Portman must have been 88 at the time, but he went blazing down there, all over the property. We spent time taking it all in, and then that evening he’d arranged a dinner where we all went around and talked about what we got out of it. He ran things that way, provoking everyone to bring their ideas forward and then guiding, editing, and compiling the best ideas from each person into a cohesive project. Portman was always soaking up ideas. He was curious. He had stacks of magazines on his desk and liked to stay current, but eschewed anything he considered a “trend.” Atlanta was his favorite city and the place he drew his power from, but Venice, Italy, was his second favorite. We went there to be part of the Venice Biennale in 2010 and see what was new. I recall Portman being very interested to see the exhibits and, in particular, what was in the Japanese pavilion. We got there and it was a very cacophonous installation that is almost the polar opposite of what I would consider “Portmanesque.” He looked in, puffed out his cheeks, kind of shrugged his shoulders and smiled as if to say, “What’s this crazy thing?” But then he went in and soaked it up and talked at length with the curator with a film crew in tow. He was open-minded and always respectful. He never criticized anyone and was thorough in giving the reasons for his decisions. It would have been easy for him to say, “Because I said so.” But he never did. I think he remained open to the idea that others would see things that maybe he hadn’t considered. One time when we were walking through the skyway of Sun Trust Plaza Tower after I crashed and burned in a meeting, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, “You know, if you have a great idea and you’re trying to persuade someone to do it, it’s usually better if they think it’s their great idea.” Portman understood people, how they think and feel, and was generous in sharing what he knew. Portman always looked to the future. He kept moving forward, even as we weathered the Great Recession, during which time he did not lay off a single person. He told me once that it’s easy to be positive when you’re up, but it’s more important to be positive when you’re down; advice he got from his mother, whom he revered. John Portman touched the lives of many people over the course of his long and productive career. He had an artist’s heart. He painted outside the lines, and we’ll miss him.
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Hotlanta Hub

Through its midtown hub, Georgia Tech is priming Atlanta for an influx of technology jobs
Since the earliest days of the technology industry, home has been Silicon Valley. However, there are some signs the tide is turning and heading towards the east. Attempting to capitalize on an impending Atlanta tech boom is The Georgia Institute of Technology, which is due to move into Coda, a mixed-use development in Midtown Atlanta’s Tech Square, in 2019. Designing a building fit for such a brief is John Portman & Associates. The Atlanta-based firm has integrated a 645,000 square feet of office space, a high-performance data center, retail and collaboration space within the development, all while accommodating a former Crum & Forster insurance house that dates back  1927. Pierluca Maffey, a principal at the architecture firm, said the project was "all about" the Italian Renaissance Revival structure that, upon close inspection, is more than just a rudimentary brick building. Atlanta firm Ivey & Crook worked with New York-based Helmle, Corbett & Harrison to design limestone flourishes, notably three arches topped by owls and a lion, which serve as keystones. "It was immediately considered as a jewel," noted Maffey. Though two-thirds of the historic building was lost in 2012, its iconic features remain. Now the former insurance house is being repurposed as a restaurant. Adjacent will be a slightly taller data center which employs chilled beams along with captured greywater deployed in cooling towers to aid temperature control. Furthermore, the center retains some proportions of its older neighbor and also serves as a stepping stone to the larger massing behind it. This glass-clad part of the project is where most of the program is housed. Across 21 floors will be mostly offices, half of which will be for the university, which owns the whole complex, while the rest of the office space is currently being leased out. Retail and conference areas are located on the first two levels. Connecting all these areas will be what Maffey described as a "collaborative core," intended to drive fast-tracked connections through intentional cross-tenant “neighborhoods,” supplemented by "collaborative lounges" on each floor of the building. For the levels occupied by Georgia Tech, a staircase atrium, intersected at every third level, will indicate the university's presence as the building's hub and connect it visually and physically to other tenants. Externally, a glass curtain wall makes up most of the facade. However, this is divided by a band of glass panes that are each individually calibrated, in lieu of lighting studies, to varying levels of translucency and reflectivity to produce a gradient effect that wraps around the building. Pierluca Maffey will be speaking about Coda in greater detail at the upcoming Facades+AM Conference in Atlanta this January 26. He will be on a panel discussing innovations in mixed-use and residential projects in Midtown Atlanta. To find out more, please visit am.facadesplus.com. Seating is limited.
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Park Earmark

Atlanta’s Piedmont Park slated for $100 million expansion
Atlanta's premier park is slated for a major upgrade. Late last month, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city will kick in $20 million to expand Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which sit just east of the city's Ansely Park neighborhood. The new entrance, envisioned by HGOR, will replace now privately-owned parcels at the park's northern tip near Piedmont Drive NE and Monroe Drive NE. Preliminary renderings and concept sketches depict new outbuildings surrounded by rolling green hills and broad, winding paths, a homage to the park's original Olmsted design. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that stewards the park, commissioned the Atlanta-based landscape architecture and urban design firm to do the initial renderings. HGOR works for public and private clients, mostly in the South. The expansion will include connections to the Atlanta BeltLine, the city's massive pedestrian and bike path project, plus additional access points to Piedmont Park. Building on the city's $20 million commitment, which includes a $2 million donation from an anonymous donor, Atlanta Committee for Progress board member and Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé is spearheading a funding effort to raise $80 million from private donors to acquire property and pay for the project's design and construction. Despite Atlanta's notorious car-centricity, the city maintains that 64 percent of residents live within a half-mile walk of a park, and the new entrance should up that number even further. To start the process, the City of Atlanta signed Letters of Intent on December 29, 2017 with two property owners at the chosen site, and the city will be conducting community engagement around the design. A city spokesperson said officials are waiting to close the real estate transaction, then fundraise and plan for the expansion. No date for the groundbreaking has been set. Piedmont Park was established in 1834, and primarily served as fairgrounds until the next century. The city commissioned Olmsted Brothers, the firm that John Charles and Frederick Law Jr. inherited from their father, to redesign the park in 1909, and most designs since then, including the 1995 master plan, have honored the Olmsted Brothers' original design intent. For the Bicentennial, Isamu Noguchi designed Playscape, a delightful one-acre spread of swings, slides, and climbing blocks, the same year the city leased land for the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
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The big atrium in the sky

Atlanta architect and developer John Portman dead at 93
John C. Portman Jr., the Atlanta architect and developer has died at 93. The Georgia Tech–trained architect is credited with developing large downtown projects that revolved around the concept of the the atrium, which he turned into large and dramatic enclosed open spaces surrounded by multiple balconies, hundreds of rooms and capsule elevators rushing vertically from base to upper floors.  Portman—who often developed and partially owned his projects—thought of these megastructures as new downtowns and they were often built in old downtowns that had been decimated by urban renewal and middle class fight. These buildings were often criticized by theorists like William H. Whyte, Mike Davis, Frederic Jameson and others for their lack of context with the historic city, especially the street. However, later in life Portman received praise from multiple sources including Herbert Muschamp, Paul Goldberger and Rem Koolhaas, who praised his work as “a hybrid” of styles and urban relationships. In 2010 Portman’s career was featured at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale and more recently, Harvard Dean Moshen Mostafavi used his designs in a GSD studio, sponsored by Portman, to think of “a new architecture, but one with a lineage.” Portman’s first large important project was for the Merchandise Mart (now AmericasMart) in his hometown of Atlanta in 1961 and this led to his design for the nearby multi-block Peachtree Center in 1965 where he maintained his office. His development firm created the multi-block complex at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center,  the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles 1976, the New York Marriott Marquis in 1985, and the Renaissance Center in Detroit in 1977, whose central tower remained the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until 2013. The Shanghai Centre (1990) was the first of many major projects in China and elsewhere in Asia. Look for a longer appreciation of Portman’s life and career in the next Architect's Newspaper print edition.
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Open Oculus

Kinetic, retractable petals cap new landmark stadium in Atlanta
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When the Georgia Dome opened in 1992, its Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric roof was considered a modern marvel, stretching more than 395,000 square feet and weighing just 68 pounds. Atlanta's domed stadium hosted an impressive roster of sporting events in its 25 years of use, including three NCAA Men's Final Fours, two decades of SEC championships, two Super Bowls, two NBA seasons and an Olympics. Today, its new sibling, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, offers perhaps more impressive engineering accomplishments and promises to draw impressive sporting events to the city. Completed in August 2017, the multi-purpose venue is officially the first LEED Platinum-certified professional sports stadium in the United States.
  • Facade Manufacturer Bird Air (ETFE); Canam Structures (steel fabrication); Alpolic (composite metal panels)
  • Architects HOK
  • Facade Installer Bird Air (specialty contractor); HHRM (construction manager); Hannah Solar and Radiance Energy (solar panels)
  • Facade Consultants Buro Happold; Hoberman; EcoWorks Studio (sustainability consultant)
  • Location Atlanta, GA
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System ETFE roof pillow system; vertical single-layered ETFE film and cable net
  • Products adhered frit ETFE membrane; custom 4-layer ETFE roof pillows; composite metal panels by Alpolic
Among other industry-leading features, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is notable for its kinetic roof structure. While other stadiums with retractable roofs must allocate additional land for the entire roof assembly to open horizontally off the stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium offers an innovative space-saving solution by breaking down the geometry of the roof into eight triangular petals which retract in a radial fashion. The petals are composed of three layers of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) membrane fabricated into air-inflated “pillows” involving more than 143,000 square feet of membrane. The lightweight material was selected for its durability and translucency. Each petal cantilevers approximately 200 feet inwards towards the center of the stadium on 16 secondary trusses which spring from four 720-feet-long primary steel trusses. This primary steel frame spans to concrete “mega-columns.” Nested within the steel framing of the oculus is the world’s largest media wall, an immersive six-foot-tall, 360-degree HD display covering over 63,000 square feet. Unrolled, the video board would stretch three football fields long.   HOK worked with an integrated team of engineers from the start, coordinating information with a robust digital toolset that included digital modeling software. Custom algorithms and parametric modeling tools integrated the stadium’s complex geometrical layout with tens of thousands of pieces of information about the roof structure and its behavior and movement during various load scenarios. The project ultimately generated over 18,000 sheets of steel shop drawings, and during peak fabrication involved 32 factories in the U.S. and Canada making and delivering steel pieces simultaneously. The facade of the project is composed of insulated metal panels and a transparent ETFE facade, which has been marketed as a “window to the city” offering seamless visual connection to the surrounding context. ETFE in the wall assembly was fritted in a range of coverage from 20 percent to 70 percent in response to solar orientation. The composition of the angular wing-like wall panels abstractly reference the stadium’s National Football League team, the Atlanta Falcons. Beyond the Falcons, the stadium flexibly hosts Major League Soccer franchise, and is expandable for major events that the Georgia Dome used to host–Super Bowls, NCAA Final Four Basketball tournaments, FIFA World Cup matches, and major concerts and performances. To accomodate geometric differences between a soccer pitch and football field, lower level seats are retractable and an automated curtain system attached to the roof structure comes down to bring soccer fans close to the pitch. Several impressive planning decisions beyond the facade contributed to the stadium's LEED Platinum certification. Design elements of the building envelope which contributed to the stadium’s LEED Platinum certification include integrated rooftop solar panels, improved daylighting from use of ETFE, and passive cooling benefits from the retractable roof. Gus Drosos, technical principal of HOK's Kansas City office, said the consistency of the attachments of the ETFE system throughout the project and detailing of complex corners were specific successes of the building envelope design that offered valuable insight into working with ETFE and might carry over into future ETFE projects.
Additional insight into the design and construction of Mercedes Benz Stadium will be offered at the upcoming Facades+ Atlanta, where a panel of architects from HOK, EcoWorks Studio, and tvsdesign will deliver presentations in a session titled, "Designing MBS: Secrets of the Mercedes Benz Stadium." For more information on the Facades+ conference series, along with registration information, visit Facades+.