LEVER Architecture’s Thomas Robinson discusses architecture and engineering in Oregon
Brought to you with support fromThe Pacific Northwest is home to a thriving architecture and design community that is shaping the industry across the country. The upcoming Facades+ AM conference March 20 will highlight notable projects within the state and region; ranging from a diverse spate of recently completed expansions to the University of Oregon campus to the ongoing proliferation of mass timber on the West Coast. Thomas Robinson, founding principal of LEVER Architecture, collaborated with The Architect's Newspaper in the program’s curation as conference co-chair. Participating firms include Allied Works, Ennead Architects, Hacker Architects, Office 52 Architecture, RDH Building Science, the Shildan Group, and Thornton Tomasetti. In anticipation of the conference, AN interviewed Robinson to discuss architectural trends in Oregon and the programming of the morning symposium. AN: We are consistently struck by the quality of work coming out of Portland and the Pacific Northwest. What is driving this emphasis on craftsmanship within Portland's design community, as found in the work of OFFICE 52 and Hacker Architects, and what work is LEVER currently up to? Thomas Robinson: There is a culture of “making” that permeates life in Portland. From the buildings to the culinary scene, people are interested in creating things that add value. Specifically, with respect to architecture, Portland projects have lower construction budgets (compared to San Francisco or New York) and that has pushed architects here to innovate with off-the-shelf systems and regional materials. You must be creative and collaborative to do something really special in the Northwest, and architects here are rising to the challenge. In terms of our own work, we’re currently in design or construction on several institutional projects. We’re building a new LEED Platinum headquarters for Meyer Memorial Trust, one of Oregon’s largest private foundations that is committed to advancing equity. The project has an interesting convening center for collaborations with community partners that is made from a new product called Mass Plywood Panels (MPP). We’re also in design on a major renovation of Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre. They do timely, provocative productions, and this renovation will strengthen their public presence and help them to engage with audiences in new ways. LEVER is leading the way in terms of timber design. What do you perceive to be the most exciting trends in terms of timber structure and cladding, and which aspects of the Nature Conservancy HQ do you plan on highlighting at Facades+ Portland? Designers are starting to think beyond tall wood buildings and beyond cross-laminated timber (CLT). There is so much potential. Right now, we’re doing a major project with a hybrid timber and precast concrete structural system. Hybrid systems are exciting because they make mass timber viable and accessible for projects across the country. Sustainable sourcing of timber for facades or for structures is a major issue as well. The Nature Conservancy Headquarters is an interesting demonstration project because it uses sustainably harvested timber products throughout, including FSC-certified glulams and CLT that were manufactured locally using regional wood. The ground level facade on the building is clad in Juniper, a native species considered invasive when overgrown because it fuels forest fires and negatively impacts Sage-Grouse habitats. The third panel brings together architect and facade consultant for the Knight Campus and the U.S. Embassy in Mozambique. Why is the dialogue between project partners crucial to successful project delivery, and what lessons do you hope are elucidated from the panel? Every consultant has a unique expertise, and it is only when we really engage in dialogue with our engineering, construction, and fabrication partners that innovation emerges. Both the Knight Campus and the U.S. Embassy project have advanced facades with respect to building performance. I am interested to learn more about the research and development that went into those systems and hope there are lessons and technologies that will be relevant to the everyday structures being built in communities. Further information regarding Facades+ Portland can be found here.
Magnusson Architecture delivers high-design affordable housing to the Bronx
Brought to you with support fromThe design and construction of affordable housing in New York is a formidable task; between labor and material costs, and the hurdles of municipal zoning and housing regulation, even the grandest of projects are budget engineered into imitations of the original concept. Magnusson Architecture and Planning’s (MAP) St. Augustine Terrace, a low-income residential tower located in the Bronx, challenges that trend with a thoughtful design consisting of dark brick and matted aluminum composite panels. Over the last three decades, MAP has led a broad range of affordable housing projects across New York City and the Hudson Valley. St. Augustine Terrace is located just south of Cortona Park in the Morrisania neighborhood, the project and joins the practice’s particular focus on urban regeneration in the Bronx—the building was also awarded a merit in the 2020 AIANY Design Awards, an AIA New York State Design Award, and an AIA Tri-State Architectural Excellence Design Award.
In the wake of the looming executive order decreeing neoclassical as the federal government’s “preferred and default style,” how can architects consider the past while still creating buildings and spaces that are of their time? Most architects seek the intriguing and inspiring when it comes to a new project, and for many, this means considering the project’s site, context, and history. And while the recent news about a potential executive order mandating neoclassical as the de-facto style for new federal buildings has architects up in arms, designers can look to the past in countless ways to create spaces that are meaningful reflections of their time and place, but free from the confines of a dictated historical style. For some, an interest in the past began even before practicing architecture. Tal Schori and Rustam Mehta, cofounders of the Brooklyn-based GRT Architects, proudly state that they “studied history before design,” and that this has instilled in them a love and respect for history that “yields an understanding that the past is layered and compatible with new work, executed confidently in its own voice.” Their approach looks to historical references, in particular architectural detailing, craftsmanship, and ornament, to create “something unapologetically new.” At a lobby renovation of the Fashion Tower, an Art Deco office building in New York’s Garment District and the new firm’s first project, Schori and Mehta lined the walls of the entry corridor with vertical panels of angled marble. The pleated pattern of the marble recalls the verticality of Art Deco motifs as well as the folding of textiles as an ode to the building’s origins. GRT’s self-proclaimed “aesthetic and historical agenda” was further explored in a line of concrete tiles for Kaza Concrete. The triangular tiles, available in three different sizes, were cast with asymmetrical grooves in deep relief and designed so that they can be arranged in a variety of ways: Installation in a regular pattern emulates a flattened fluted column; alternating directions can create a herringbone pattern, and a nonrepeating arrangement leads to an abstract pattern. The interplay of symmetry, tone, and texture results in a tile collection that is firmly in the land of modernity while looking over its shoulder to the past. For architect Elizabeth Roberts of the eponymous Brooklyn-based Elizabeth Roberts Architecture, an interest in history led her to complete a master’s in historic preservation before starting her own firm that focuses on renovations and additions to existing buildings that, in her words, “breathe new life into historic buildings.” Yet despite her “love for historic buildings,” she explained, she also believes in “authenticity”—that additions should appear “different” from the original structure while still “respecting their original massing, details, and materials.” Delicately glazed facades, modern furniture, and an eclectic sense of minimalism pervade her work and visually declare old versus new. But even where her work distinguishes itself from the existing fabric, she still begins every project by “understanding a building’s story” through research on its history, context, and neighborhood, she noted. Craftsmanship plays an important role as well, and she “enjoys seeing artisans continue their craft in our projects,” regularly hiring master plasterers and woodworkers who understand historic styles to create new, elaborate elements such as handrails. While some designers are inspired by materials, detailing, and construction techniques of the past, others look to the unique cultural heritage of the region to tell the story of a place through its built environment. In Hawai’i, for example, oral history and genealogy chants were the main means of passing down history for centuries, and many of these oral histories have been collected at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu — a source architect Ma Ry Kim, a principal and design director at the Honolulu-based firm G70, frequently uses as part of her initial research for the project. During the recent renovation of The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali, the museum’s archives revealed that prior to the construction of the 1971 hotel, the site had historically been covered with a native grass “that held morning dew, giving water and life to land,” said Kim. Inspired by this untouched landscape, she employed vertical elements throughout the project that hark back to the site’s tall blades of grass, from the wood battens on the exterior of the building to the carefully selected artwork found throughout the lobby and even in the woven textiles selected for guest’s rooms. For Kim, architecture is an important way to tell Hawai’i’s cultural story. She noted that many sites “tread on indigenous lands that were once protected and considered sacred places,” and she thus tries to “seek balance between the modern world and the historical markings of a place” in her designs. At another hotel renovation project, the Prince Waikiki Hotel, she learned of a long-forgotten ancestral stream that ran below the hotel’s foundations. The stream’s boundaries were graphically resurrected through contrasting flooring materials in the lobby, and the stream inspired the central suspended artwork created by local residents and employees that consists of nearly 1,000 copper hinana, a local fish—an ode to the area’s native landscape. But even projects in the heart of major metropolises like New York City can nod to their existing context, like Foster + Partners’ new tower in Midtown Manhattan at 100 East 53rd Street, which pays homage to the modernist landmarks that surround it: the iconic Seagram Building and equally storied Lever House. Peter Han, partner at Foster + Partners, detailed how the firm “focused on the relationship between 100 East 53rd Street and the Seagram Building, aiming to create an appropriate counterpoint to the classic office tower.” The building’s crisply white, undulating skin contrasts with the Seagram Building’s dark bronze facade, while the massing of a “9-story bustle,” as Han described it, sitting at the base of the tower, “echoes the volumes of its neighbor,” Lever House. Indeed, while styles may come and go, the past—and its use as a source for inspiration—will always exist, ad infinitum.
A Q+A with Dennis Shelden, RPI’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology new director
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) has announced that architect and entrepreneur Dennis Shelden will be taking over as its director. The academic-industrial research and teaching alliance, focused on using technology to address concerns of “built ecology,” was founded in 2007, and is located across RPI’s main campus in Troy, New York, and in Industry City in Brooklyn. Shelden will be departing his position as an associate professor at Georgia Tech, where he was also director of the Digital Building Laboratory and the School of Architecture’s doctoral program. Previously he held other academic appointments, and worked with Frank Gehry and Gehry Partners for many years before serving as CTO of Gehry Technologies, which was later acquired by Trimble. AN spoke with Shelden to find out more about the future of CASE and how technology and climate change are reshaping not only how and what architects design and build, but how the industry functions. Drew Zeiba: What are some of the biggest challenges you think architects and others working in the built environment face going into this new decade? Dennis Shelden: I believe the building industries are entering a period of disruptive transformation similar to those seen by other industries in the 21st century. These changes will impact the “products” of building—the physical buildings themselves—as well as the delivery processes, including the erosion the identified boundaries between the distinct building professions. What do these changes mean for architects in light of the climate crisis? These changes are coming at an urgent time for the built environment, in that so many aspects of [the] climate crisis are either the product of building (such as carbon release, and habitat destruction), or have existential impacts on built systems (rising sea levels, drought, weather). Responses to environmental challenges are not “just” something that building professionals should respond to from an ethical perspective, they are becoming critical drivers of requirements either by legislation or risk response from clients. The challenge for the architectural discipline is, simply put, to rise to meet the opportunities in front of it. These include new opportunities to develop initiatives and take on opportunities in the built environment beyond the scope of architectural services, to generate innovations and to capitalize on the value of new ideas, and to rethink the products we produce and what a building is. The issue is that architecture as a discipline and a culture has been quite self-limiting and defines itself by what it isn’t (a contractor, and owner, an industrial designer) as much as by what it is. This self-limiting is potentially very risky, as business models for the built environment evolve and as others, such as manufacturers and tech companies, start entering the building industry and capturing pieces of the value chain that have traditionally been architectural services. So in order to meet the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities happening in the built environment, architecture is going to have to rethink what it is, and embrace a much more expansive and heterogeneous definition of practice. What new technologies are you most compelled by or excited for? And what does this mean for CASE? There are a number of interrelated technological advances available to designers. These include the web and cloud computing, data analytics, and environmental sensors, coupled with the sort of automated generative design capabilities from the last era, and in concert with mass production opportunities and access to capital. Together these create a wealth of opportunities to understand and act on transformative innovations in the built environment in the larger context—as integral parts of holistic urban systems and at across scales both larger and smaller than a single building. This is the opportunity for CASE and the heart of its mission for its chapter: To drive systemic technological and ecological—as well as process and business—innovation in the building industries, in order to reassert the role of design and the built environment as engines for social change in wholly new ways. You’ve worked in a traditional firm and in architectural technology. What role do you see research and R&D taking in architecture within and outside of the university environment? My hope is that CASE can become a new kind of academic venture, with far more direct models of engagement with both the building and tech industries. I think there is a need for not-for-profit centers for innovation that competitive private ventures can’t deliver. And certainly the education of students and development of talent is a key part of what academia offers. But there are a lot of potential new models to consider—from lifelong professional education and embedded research in practice to startup incubation. I am looking for CASE to be a model for exploring these possibilities in active collaboration with the remarkable building professional and tech as well as social, philanthropic, and business organizations in New York City. What are going to be some of your first steps in this new position? As a first couple of steps, we are developing new professional educational programs in design technology and technology practice leadership, and will be building out a new internship research in residence program where we can drive innovation onto projects together with partnering companies. We are thinking about new ways of leveraging the studio program as a way [of] connecting with building product, manufacturing, and software companies, as well as humanitarian organizations. And in May we will be hosting a symposium on disruptive technologies and organizational models that will relaunch CASE into the New York City community around this expanded agenda.
My way or the highway
MVRDV’s revamp of Amsterdam’s Tripolis Park includes a noise-buffering groundscraper
Dutch firm MVRDV has unveiled plans for Tripolis Park, a large-scale redevelopment project calling for the renovation and expansion of an architecturally significant Amsterdam office park that sits directly next to the A10 motorway (Rijksweg 10), the city’s bustling primary ring road. The most significant new addition to the existing Tripolis campus will be a rectangular, 11-story office block; a proper “groundscraper” per MVRDV, that will pull double-duty as a sound screen. Spanning nearly 400,000 square feet parallel to the A10, the photovoltaic array-topped structure will help muffle the constant roar of traffic produced by the highway. And, only fitting for a shiny, ultramodern office building situated nearly atop a traffic-clogged ring road, the star tenant will be Uber. Completed in 1994, Tripolis, which will be rebranded as Tripolis Park once the redevelopment of the site is complete, is one of the final works of influential Dutch architect and theorist, Aldo van Eyck. An outspoken proponent of Structuralism, van Eyck is best known for the Amsterdam Orphanage (1960) and for the hundreds of public playgrounds that he created across the city in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Located a stone’s throw from Van Eyck’s iconic, national monument-listed orphanage, Tripolis—itself a monument site since 2019—has historically suffered from low occupancy rates despite its eye-catching design, desirable location in Amsterdam’s fast-growing Zuidas business district, and attractive, courtyard-centered orientation. Composed of a trio of curvy mid-rises in which clusters of office suites fan out from central staircases, the existing buildings will be fully renovated by MVRDV to ensure that they “become commercially viable” according to a press release. Amsterdam-based real estate developer Flow is spearheading the project. The buildings’ signature design characteristics, namely their wood and granite facades and colorful window frames, will remain while MVRDV will add new elements such as rooftop gardens. The northernmost of the three existing buildings, Tripolis 100, will remain separate from the new groundscraper-slash-highway noise-blocker and eventually be converted into an affordable housing complex. Tripolis 200 and 300, the two existing buildings not slated for conversion into future housing, and those located closest to the A10, will be woven into the footprint of MVRDV’s new building. “This block is indented where it meets the existing buildings, adapting its grid structure to the complex geometry of Van Eyck’s offices,” explained MVRDV. “The relation between the austere, regimented south façade and the playfully indented north façade is revealed by a high-transparency eight-storey window that provides a glimpse of the existing Tripolis buildings where the indentation punches almost all the way through the new structure.” This melding of old and new at Tripolis Park is certainly dramatic, especially when considering the newer building’s hulking rigidity and the wavy, organic forms of Van Eyck’s older structures. “So I am a fan of Aldo van Eyck’s oeuvre and I think we should treat his design as respectfully as possible,” said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas in a statement. “The new building guards and shelters the existing Tripolis complex as it were, thanks to the protective layer we create. We literally echo Tripolis, as if it was imprinting its neighbour. The space between will be given a public dimension and will be accessible to passers-by. As a visionary in his time, Aldo already saw office spaces as meeting places. I want to continue that idea by promoting interaction between the two buildings in various ways.” Uber, whose international headquarters are currently located elsewhere in Amsterdam, will also take up residence in the largest of the existing Van Eyck buildings in addition to occupying several lower floors of MVRDV's A10-abutting structure. As reported by Bloomberg, Uber will occupy two-thirds of the Tripolis campus in total starting in 2022. The San Francisco-based tech giant will have the option to rent even more space as its Amsterdam workforce continues to grow. Since 2017, the number of Amsterdam-based Uber employees has jumped from 400 to 1,700, prompting the company to seek out a more spacious home.
Take a Claycation
KPF’s One Vanderbilt soars with terra-cotta and glass
Brought to you with support fromOne Vanderbilt, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), is not a subtle project; the tower topped out in September 2019 and rises from an entire city block with a behemoth massing to a height of just over 1,400 feet. The tower is visible across the metropolitan region, from the New Jersey Meadows to the Bronx-Queens Expressway, and stands out from the pack with spandrels of fluted terra-cotta and canted glass panels. The building is located in the heart of Midtown, standing immediately adjacent to Grand Central Terminal and surrounded by turn-of-the-century office towers—approximately half-a-dozen historic structures met the wrecking ball to make room for the project. For KPF, this context, and perhaps the acts of destruction required in the act of creation, led to two primary design objectives: An accessible podium with an engaged street wall on all four elevations, and a material palette that kept with Terminal City. As noted by KPF design principal Jeffrey Kenoff, “Our use of terra-cotta echoes the work of Guastavino at Grand Central, while the bronze podium allows the building to nest into a Midtown patina.”
Permasteelisa North America’s project office leader, the team typically installed four floors per month using a mini-crane projected from the floor slab above. The unitized panels were fabricated at Permasteelisa Group’s factories in Connecticut and Montreal and were shipped to the site by New Jersey-based superload logistics specialist Farren International. Buffalo-based manufacturer Boston Valley Terracotta (BVTC) produced the tower’s architectural terra-cotta and was involved in its modeling since the concept design phase. There are two custom glazes, resulting from half-a-decade of collaboration between BVTC and KPF, applied to the tower’s terra-cotta panels; a darker glaze for the larger soffit tiles and a light, high-gloss glaze used for the curtain wall spandrels. The bulk of the tiles were extruded—the clay was forced through a steel die to produce a hollow cored unit which is subsequently cut, dried, and fired. In total, there are over 2,400 soffit tiles, which measure 5'-0" x 2' - 6", and 26,000 spandrel tiles, which have a standard width of approximately 5 feet. Each diagonally-oriented flute is just over a foot in height, and are split by approximately two-inch seams. The tiles are held by a straightforward system of mullions and stack joints, however, special attention was paid to areas that incorporate natural-ventilation components. The canted glass panels run the same width as the spandrel tiles and were produced by Tvitec Spain and treated with Guardian SunGuard HP Neutral 50/32. Each IGU module is composed of a 3/8" outer lite, a 1/2" air space, and an inner lite of two 1/4" panes. The project is scheduled to wrap up in 2020.Excavation of the site began in 2016 to make way for one of the city’s largest concrete pours, with the foundation requiring approximately 4,000 cubic yards of concrete. Since then, construction manager AECOM Tishman and facade installer and fabricator Permasteelisa have proceeded at a dizzying pace. According to David Mangini,
WHO SEES THE ART?
Barbara Kruger installs politically charged murals across Los Angeles
Spearheading the second Frieze Los Angeles, a major art fair held at Paramount Pictures Studios from February 13-16, local conceptual artist Barbara Kruger unveiled Untitled (Questions), a public art project made up of 20 large-scale murals throughout the city of Los Angeles. The bright green murals have not only made their way to the facades of significant buildings, such as NeueHouse Hollywood, Union Station, and Banc of California Stadium, but, with the support of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Bureau, have also taken over many of the city’s light pole banners, digital billboards, and other spaces typically designated for traditional forms of advertisement. Organized by Bettina Korek, the executive director of Frieze Los Angeles, the project directly asks unsuspecting passersby deceptively complex questions, such as ‘WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?,’ ‘WHO BUYS THE CON?,’ and ‘WHAT'S HOT? WHAT'S NOT?,’ in a highly legible Futura Bold Oblique typeface. “We are extremely honored to have collaborated with Barbara on the Frieze Week campaign,” Korek explained in a press statement. “This project trusts that in an age of distraction, people still pay attention. It’s quintessential how her choice of words balances directness and ambiguity, how they invite a viewer to read into what is being asked as well as what isn’t.” The project is, on one hand, a reflection of the artist's anti-capitalist political views (rendered in green and white in a nod to American currency), and on the other hand an appropriation of billboard aesthetics in an attempt to provoke residents of the city, most of whom will not be attending Frieze Los Angeles, to question the status quo on their daily commutes. Though Kruger has produced word-based murals in public space for over 30 years, this latest project is her farthest-reaching installation. The piece is complemented by Untitled (Questions), a 191-foot long mural installed on the southern facade of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) prior to the 2018 midterm elections. While the MOCA piece will be uninstalled on November 30 of this year (following the 2020 presidential election), the project commissioned by Frieze does not have a set end date, and will likely be uninstalled in stages.
The Big Apple
The Pavilion at Great Northern Way revolves with CNC-milled timber and aluminum composite panels
Brought to you with support fromThe Pavilion at Great Northern Way, a florid timber, steel, and glass structure designed by Perkins and Will and fabricated by Canadian timber specialist Spearhead, anchors a new public plaza in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Vancouver, British Columbia. The 2,000-square-foot space, which was completed in 2019 and will be home to a coffee shop, abuts the Perkins and Will–designed South Flatz office block and the newly constructed campus of the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
aluminum composite shingles. The petals are just over 30 feet tall and frame a central, glazed oculus. Initially, the architects sought to achieve the flowing form with nail-laminated timber panels—stacked dimensional lumber held together with nails—shaped by 5-axis CNC sculpting. With a budget of only $1.4 million, however, this method proved cost-prohibitive. Instead, Spearhead developed a waffle framing model built from economic laminated strand lumber and glulam sculpted with a 3-axis CNC machine, an approach that significantly reduced the volume of material required for the pavilion and facilitated the straightforward installation of insulation and MEP infrastructure. Streamlining the broad contours of the pavilion did not diminish the project’s hybrid, kit-of-parts complexity. The shear wall system consists of curved plate steel reinforced with glulam on either side, while the slender profile of the upper roof layer relies on CNC-cut plate steel columns laterally supported by engineered wood components. Both the roof diaphragm and the shear wall system are sheathed in plywood; moments of extreme curvature are decked with layers of thin plywood laminated together. Narrow strips of birch plywood were applied to the interior and overlap as curved drop siding. In total, there are approximately 6,950 custom CNC-cut wood components, 875 custom CNC structural steel parts, and 1,350 Simpson brackets. Blackcomb Facade Technology, a frequent Spearhead collaborator with particular expertise in complex assemblies and hybrid structures, handled the five curved glazed bays for the pavilion using a RAICO Therm+ A-I system with Guardian SunGuard glass.The primary elements of the pavilion are ten overlapping curved “petals” clad in bright-red
Brought to you with support fromOn April 2 and 3, Facades+ is returning to New York for its largest annual conference, which is split between a full-day symposium followed by the second day of intensive hands-on workshops led by dozens from across the country. Co-chair John Cetra, founding principal of New York-based practice CetraRuddy, collaborated with The Architect's Newspaper in the curation of panels themes and speakers. Panels include; “Materiality & Fabrication: Bespoke Facade Solutions,” “Scaling up Passive House | For the Greater Good,” “Optimizing the Form,” and “Adaptive Reuse Challenges in NYC Historic Icons.” UNStudio founding principal Ben van Berkel and WXY principal-in-charge Claire Weisz are leading the morning and afternoon keynotes, and Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto of Reiser + Umemoto will dive into their spate of recently completed projects. Prior to the conference, AN sat down with Cetra to discuss architectural trends reshaping New York City and the firm’s recent body of work. AN: Over the last thirty years, CetraRuddy has successfully navigated New York's real estate landscape to deliver scores of projects across building scales. What lessons have been learned and what advice would you give young firms today? John Cetra: We’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past 30 years. One of the most salient is that to successfully navigate the New York real estate landscape, architects need to understand the unique context we have to work in and in particular, the zoning resolution and its nuances. In our practice, an advanced understanding of the requirements has allowed us to create unique buildings forms like One Madison and ARO. This applies across the board, whether in contextual zones, landmarked districts, or not. We value context and history, but we are also open and receptive to new thinking, and we like to weave the two together through design. At Fotografiska, we created a new multi-use event space on the top floor of an 1890s-era building by exposing the structural beams holding up the roof. This is an entirely new space—but it celebrates the original materiality and design of the building in a very respectful way. One of the panels will include your recently completed ARO. Can you explain the significance of the project from the perspective of facade design and engineering? ARO’s facade is crucial to its design—it enhances and clarifies the building’s massing, and works in harmony with the tower’s shape. The signature fenestration pattern is comprised of a glass curtain wall with a light metal net that creates a singular graphic overlay or a ‘second skin.’ This net employs 18-inch-deep “fenders" that act as an integrated solar device, reflecting light as the glass areas absorb light. In this way, the sun is a friend of this building—the sky is reflected in its glass and the metal fenders protect the interiors from sunlight at high angles. As the light changes throughout the day, the articulation of the facade creates depth and visual interest, responding to the time of day and weather. From a technical perspective, the unitized curtain wall system required the design team to minimize the number of custom panel sizes and conditions. Even though the massing undulates and projects forward in cantilevered sections, there are only six different shapes and unit sizes that made up the entire facade. You worked closely with AN to co-curate the upcoming conference. What do you hope will be the primary takeaways of the conference? I think the conference will show that there are no set, universal rules, and that building facades can be of very high quality because of the tools we as architects and designers have at our disposal. Digital technology combined with architectural creativity, a thoughtful understanding of context, and understanding of program can result in beautiful buildings that are sustainable, a pleasure to live or work in, and thoughtful additions to our built environment. Additionally, in terms of contextuality, façade design can successfully contribute and respond to the local built environment. The technology exists now to create site-specific, context-aware facade solutions that are also really attractive and, most importantly, climate-responsive. This is a heartening advance that will be discussed in detail at the upcoming conference. Further information regarding Facades+ New York can be found here.
Brought to you with support fromThe International Spy Museum presents a striking figure in the relatively staid streetscape of Washington, D.C. The building opened in May 2019 and was designed by London-based Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) in collaboration with architect-of-record Hickok Cole, and replaced the original home of the Spy Musem that was constructed in 2002. The project is a demonstration of high-tech architecture; notably, the pleated glass veil shrouding an atrium and circulation space—both cantilevered off the primary black aluminum-clad exhibition-space structure. L'Enfant Plaza is not the most exciting corner of Washington, D.C.—the megaproject, designed by I.M. Pei and developed by William Zeckendorf, is often derided for its overwhelming massing and dearth of pedestrian amenities. The International Spy Museum is located within a forecourt of the megaproject and, in its idiosyncrasy, establishes a formidable presence in the area. The project rises to a height of 130 feet, the height limit within the city, and is primarily encased in a tapered aluminum black box lifted off the ground by pilotis. Total square footage for the museum comes out to approximately 120,000 square feet divided across seven stories.
Free Victoria Parking
Shin Shin imagines radical redevelopment of abandoned Detroit homes
The economic decline of Detroit in the second half of the 20th century is a familiar one in American history. The Motor City dramatically fell from a population of 1,850,000 in 1950 to 680,000 in 2015, resulting in an unprecedented exodus of its central historic districts. The Virginia Park district, a neighborhood lined with abandoned turn-of-the-century mansions, soon became a destination for out-of-town photographers eager to capture the ‘ruins’ as physical proof of abandonment with little interest in how the city can move on from the troubles of its recent past. Shin Shin, an architecture firm founded in 2018 by Detroit-born sisters Melissa and Amanda Shin, recently opened an exhibition at Woodbury University in Burbank, California, that offers a bold solution for the city’s historic homes through a novel form of adaptive reuse. Titled Four Corners, the exhibition dives deeply into No Vacancy, a series of redevelopment scenarios applied to a typical Virginia Park mansion. Each scenario programmatically divides the home in half, leaving the top floor as a modestly-sized private residence while transforming the bottom floor into a commercial space that generates income and provides much-needed amenities for building community. The four different family types—the bachelor or young couple, the single-parent, the nuclear family, and the empty nester—are coupled with a complementary commercial program, creative service spaces, an outdoor theater, a recreation center, and a garden cafe, respectively. Because the clash between the public and private may seem outlandish at first, the exhibition goes to great lengths to demonstrate the viability of their proposals through scaled-up construction drawings and highly detailed 3D-printed models. The models, in particular, draw the eye to the more playful aspects of each design, including silly straw-like columns, rock climbing facades, and overinflated acoustical padding. While the firm currently has no plans to make their vision a reality in their native city, they hope to come up with other, like-minded proposals to guide Detroit through its current era of revitalization and growth. Four Corners will be on display until March 6.
NBBJ acquires interactive experience firm ESI Design
Global architecture and design firm NBBJ announced its acquisition of experience design studio ESI Design today. Founded in New York by Edwin Schlossberg, ESI Design has been a leader in interactive design for over forty years, dating back to their work on the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in 1977. Schlossberg will become a partner at NBBJ and continue to lead the studio in New York. “NBBJ and ESI Design share a vision that well-designed spaces can bring ideas and brands to life in ways that inform, inspire, and delight," Schlossberg said in a press release. “Through our partnership, we will push the boundaries of what a building can be and help our clients bring people closer together through shared experiences—by seeking to design in ways that enable the environment to learn from its users so that it, and them get better with use.” Known for weaving digital interventions into physical environs, ESI Design is now the 18th studio within NBBJ, and its acquisition is the largest ever of an experience design firm by an architecture firm. The deal brings NBBJ to over 800 employees worldwide, and six ESI leaders will become principals at NBBJ. The two firms have collaborated before on corporate and commercial projects in New York and Boston, but will now be able to streamline services by incorporating digital experiences earlier in the design process. ESI Design’s recent projects include the interactive exhibitions at the Statue of Liberty Museum that opened in May 2019 and the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. The partnership between ESI Design and NBBJ will likely lead to more immersive digital experiences in spaces such as commercial high rises, sports stadiums, and hospitals, as well as museums. NBBJ is one of the world’s largest architecture firms and has completed corporate office, civic, healthcare, commercial real estate, education, science, and sports projects. The studio is headquartered in Seattle, and NBBJA has won accolades for their recent glassy, high-profile corporate projects for Amazon and Samsung.
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