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Best of Design Awards
2016 Building of the Year > Midwest: University of Iowa Visual Arts Building by Steven Holl Architects
The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013 Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it's grown to 26 exciting categories. As in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you.
2016 Building of the Year > Midwest: University of Iowa Visual Arts Building
Architect: Steven Holl Architects Location: Iowa City, IA
The new Visual Arts Building for the University of Iowa’s School of Art and Art History, which replaced a 1936 building that was heavily damaged by a flood, provides 126,000 square feet of loft-like studio space for all visual arts disciplines by utilizing both traditional techniques and advanced technologies. Alongside Art Building West—also designed by Steven Holl Architects and completed in 2006—the two structures define a visual arts campus for the theorizing, teaching, and making of art. Studios are open and visible to display each discipline’s practice and product, while seven vertical cutouts through the building’s horizontal floor plates maximize natural light and ventilation.
Associate Architect BNIM ArchitectsStructural Engineers BuroHappold, Structural Engineering Associates Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Design Engineers Zinc and perforated stainless-steel exterior skin RHEINZINK Glass Bendheim Architectural Glass Honorable Mention: Building of the Year > Midwest: Gordon Parks Arts Hall
Architect: Valerio Dewalt Train Associates Location: Chicago, IL
Reinterpreting the neo-gothic architecture of the University of Chicago’s neighboring buildings, the Gordon Parks Arts Hall celebrates the school’s commitment to hands-on learning with rooms designed to produce and present content.
Holl in One
Construction on Steven Holl’s University of Iowa Visual Arts Building is Nearly Finished
Designed by Eric Owen Moss Architects, Pterodactyl was completed in spring 2015. Perched atop an existing four level parking garage, the 16,663-square-foot building is formed by the intersection of nine rectangular boxes that are lifted one level above the garage roof and stacked either on top of or adjacent to each other. The boxes organize essential program elements connected by an interior second floor bridge. The undersides of the boxes are cut out to accommodate an open plan on the main office floor below.
The facade is clad in more than 19,000 square feet of Rheinzink prePATINA blue-grey Flat Lock panels. In addition, approximately 3,600 square feet of the panels were used in a low-slope roof application.
“We like to use a relatively small palette of materials,” said Raul Garcia, project architect with Eric Owen Moss. “That really helps create the dramatic space because it allows the focus to be on the form, and the spatial aspects that the form creates.
“We had used Rheinzink on an earlier project known as the Beehive, and we were really happy with it—both initially and over time, as the patina gave the building a life of its own,” says Garcia. “So we were excited to use Rheinzink on this project as well. We like the color and the grain of the architectural zinc and the fact that it patinas and changes over time.”
The detailing and installation of the Flat Lock panels was as complex and unique as the architecture itself. “One of the great attributes of Rheinzink is its workability,” Garcia said. “Installers were able to customize it onsite to fit complicated areas around beams and in tight corners.”
A challenging aspect of the installation was wrapping the Flat Lock panels around the edges and corners. Gary McKee, Rheinzink’s West Coast regional sales manager, noted, “Most installers would end the panel at a corner rather than turning it—but that’s not what the design team wanted. Turning the Flat Lock panel is doable, but it’s not easy and it requires a skilled installer.”
Transparent addition puts historic Brutalist library on display.When designLAB architects signed on (with associate architect Austin Architects) to renovate and expand the Claire T. Carney Library at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, they faced a particular challenge: addressing the college's changing educational and sustainability priorities while respecting the legacy of the campus' original architect and planner, Paul Rudolph. "We never intended to try to preserve the building 100 percent," explained designLAB's Ben Youtz. "It was more about understanding Rudolph's goals for the project, then re-presenting them to meet current needs." At the same time, he said, "the reality was we were never going to compete, architecturally, with the form of this building." Instead, the architects conceived of the 27,000-square-foot addition as a vitrine within which to display the master designer's work. The result, a transparent glass box revealed through a curtain of mesh sunshades, pays homage to Rudolph's design without sacrificing either the library's revised programmatic goals or the call for improved environmental performance. Both the renovation and the addition address the changing role of the library on college campuses. "Libraries today are much less about the book, and much more about engaging with your peers, both academically and socially," said Youtz. designLAB moved much of Carney Library's collection from the stack floors to below-grade compact shelving, transforming the reclaimed space into a variety of lounge and group study environments. "It was about creating a more collaborative, public experience," said Youtz. "In that sense, the addition was thought of not just as a new front door to the library, but a new front door to the campus." Located along one of UMass Dartmouth's primary circulatory spines, the transparent addition, which accommodates a browsing area, group study spaces, and a cafe, visually connects the parking areas to the west with the main campus green to the east. Sustainability was a key concern for the clients. "The existing building was a behemoth in terms of its energy consumption," explained Youtz. In renovated portions of the building, designLAB achieved substantial savings through the introduction of insulated glass and thermally broken glazing systems, a super insulated roof, and a high efficiency mechanical system. With respect to the addition, the vitrine metaphor as well as the desire to foster connectivity and collaboration called for a high degree of transparency. "To do that you want to have a lot of glass," said Youtz. "But of course this has challenges in terms of heat gain." The architects chose high performance glass and a thermally broken curtain wall system for the open-plan space, which wraps under and around an existing second-story bridge to the science and engineering building. To further reduce solar gain, they introduced a frit pattern on the west side of the addition as well as glazing on the west and south facades of the original structure. The pattern recalls the weft and weave of fabric, a nod to the college's historic connection to the local textile industry. Stainless steel mesh sunshades provide another layer of protection against the sun. designLAB derived the spacing of the mesh fins on the east and west facades of the addition from the system of CMU elements on the library's third- and fifth-floor cantilevers. The material, in turn, looks to the mesh shades originally installed in the atrium spaces scattered around campus. "Our treatment of the addition was spinning off this mesh idea that Rudolph introduced on the inside—we took it and put it on the outside," explained Youtz. "One of the ideas is that this is a curtain of diaphanous stainless steel mesh wrapping the stage on which Rudolph is presented." The fins, which are deeper, more tightly spaced, and pulled farther from the building on the west side of the addition, produce a play of shadows and light as the day progresses. "When the sun tracks across the elevation, the quality of the shadow is always changing," said Youtz. "It's really quite beautiful." At either end of their metaphorical vitrine, the architects confronted the challenge of engaging with the original concrete structure. "It was a big struggle about how we did that and did it well," recalled Youtz. "We didn't want to introduce more CMU in ways Rudolph didn't use it." They opted instead for a greenish-grey zinc system that complements both the cast-in-place and the CMU elements. "We have these bookends where the vitrine meets either the library or the science building, where zinc is expressed on both the outside and inside," said Youtz. "You get the sense that this is where we're transitioning from the original exterior to a new condition." For Youtz, the opportunity to work on the UMass Dartmouth project was "truly an inspiration. It's phenomenal to think that when Rudolph was visioning this campus, he was building 1.5 million square feet in the middle of the farm fields." But beyond its sheer size, Rudolph's work at the college is remarkable for its focus on the student experience. "One of his major guiding principles was about the collective—so he created all these different spaces where students could share ideas," said Youtz. "That's why we wanted to reinvent the library as a social and intellectual hub at the heart of campus, to make it a space where students want to hang out and work."
University of Arkansas addition celebrates the future with a contemporary rewrite of Neoclassicism.As head of the architecture department and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell was uniquely qualified to oversee the renovation and expansion of the school's home, Vol Walker Hall. To unite the school's landscape architecture, architecture, and interior design departments under one roof for the first time, Blackwell's eponymous firm designed a contemporary west wing to mirror the east bar on the existing Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the 1930s as the university library. But the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—which tied for Building of the Year in AN's 2014 Best of Design Awards—is more than a container for 37,000 square feet of new studio, seminar, and office space. It is also a teaching tool, a lesson in the evolution of architectural technology writ in concrete, limestone, glass, steel, and zinc. "Our strategy was to create a counterweight to the existing building," explained Blackwell. Rather than a layered steel-frame construction, Marlon Blackwell Architect opted for a post-tensioned concrete structure to convey a sense of mass and volume. "We also wanted to demonstrate what you can do with new technology like post-tensioned concrete, such as introducing a cantilever and introducing a profile that has minimal columns in the spaces," he said. "All of that is a didactic tool for our students to contrast and compare with the load-bearing technology of the existing structure." The exterior of the Steven L. Anderson Design Center also reflects on changes to architectural practice during the last 80 years. "We really wanted to develop a strong profile of the building, in contrast to Vol Walker Hall," said Blackwell. He describes the effect as a figure-ground reversal: where in the older structure the mass of the building is the ground and the windows and ornament act as figure, in the new wing the mass is the figure and the fenestration the ground. To create what Blackwell terms a "condition of resonance" between the Design Center and Vol Walker Hall, the architects engaged Clarkson Consulting to develop an architectural concrete to match the color of a local Arkansas limestone no longer available. They echoed the Indiana limestone on the older wing with panels sourced from a quarry only 50 miles from the original. But instead of grouting the limestone cladding on the new wing, Blackwell chose a limestone rain screen system from Stone Panels. "That allows us to go much thinner but much larger," he said. "Again, we're using the same materials but showing how the advancement of technology allows for a different expression of architecture." The defining feature of the Design Center is the more than 200-foot-long glass and steel curtain wall on the western facade. Knowing that the western exposure would provide the only source of natural light for the new wing, the architects worked to balance the need for light against the threat of solar gain. To complement the existing building, they chose a fascia steel curtain wall custom-fabricated by local company L&L Metal Fabrication. With curtain wall consultants Heitmann & Associates, Blackwell developed a brise soleil comprising 3/4-inch by 18-inch frit glass fins, angled to filter sunlight into the Design Center's 43-foot-deep studios. "What we like about it, too, is that it's one big window," said Blackwell. "It allows it to feel as if we've cut a section right through the building. At night the entire facade becomes a beacon, allowing for a nice interface between the school of architecture and the rest of the community." Other details, including the monolithic concrete pours designed to lighten the Design Center's connection to the ground, and zinc cladding used on the top floor to sharpen the profile of the main body, continue the dialogue between the new structure and its Neoclassical neighbor. "There are a lot of little things that give a tautness to the expression of the new addition, and give it its own identity," said Blackwell. "But at the same time, one of the things we were faithful to was trying to analyze and uncover units of measure and proportion on the old building, and apply that to ours." Perhaps more importantly, the building works as a design school—and Blackwell would know. "There's certainly contrast on the outside," he said. "But there's an almost resonant seamlessness on the inside."
Medical clinic in the Dallas suburbs features a contemporary facade of perforated metal panels.When Legacy ER commissioned 5G Studio to design an emergency care facility in Allen, Texas, the architects seized the opportunity to define an emerging building type. One of a growing number of freestanding emergency care centers (FECCs) popping up across the United States, the Legacy ER in Allen combines an emergency room and urgent care clinic under one roof. The Allen facility is the second collaboration between the care provider and 5G Studio, who also designed Legacy ER's FECC in Frisco. "Based on the Frisco project they saw it as a strength to their brand to design an outstanding facility," said partner Yen Ong. "Architectural identity is one of their brand hallmarks." Inspired both by traditional domestic architecture and the image of a physician's robe, Legacy ER - Allen's sculptural zinc facade punctures the monotony of its suburban surroundings. In Allen, "like in any suburban context, you have McMansions and little to excite you," said Ong. "We took the opportunity to reflect on the identity of the organization, and to try to create an episodic architectural intervention into that suburb." The architects looked at the site's context and saw a lot of single-family homes with pitched roofs. "We said, 'Let's start there,'" recalled Ong. "We began to take the idea of the sloped roof, but reflect it in a modern and a new way." They experimented with the form, and hit upon the idea of building a robe—like the physician's white coat—to enclose the program. The robe lifts at strategic points to create entrances and a mezzanine-level conference room. As at the Frisco facility, the designers chose zinc for Legacy ER - Allen's envelope. "In Frisco, we convinced Legacy ER that zinc is a good reflection on their brand," said Ong. "It's sustainable, very durable, and malleable. It had all the qualities we want and allows a lot of aesthetic freedom." Zinc holds up well under Texas's regular hailstorms. "What we found in the first building is that even if the hail scratches or dents it, it's surprising how resilient it is—it doesn't look like a damaged car body," said Ong. Ong also notes that zinc, despite its cool grey color, conveys an impression of warmth, an important consideration for a facility that serves people in crisis. In Frisco, 5G Studio found that the brightness of the interior lights at night rendered the exterior as dark and closed. To avoid a similar problem at the Allen clinic, they perforated the cladding and installed an efficient lighting system behind it. "The zinc panels essentially become light fixtures, emitting diffuse light on the exterior," said Ong. Gradients in the perforations insure a uniform distribution of light across the plane, to prevent glare. During the day, the perforations allow daylight to filter in through overhangs on the west and east sides of the building, where high-performance glazing (fritted or placed high for privacy) provides additional protection against solar gain. Both the cladding itself and the roofing challenge the notion that advanced forms necessitate advanced construction techniques. "The zinc itself employed a very typical assembly; the roofing is standard metal roofing," said Ong. "We purposefully selected the very common method of standing seam metal roofing, but express it in a different way. We felt like the achievement on the exterior is not, 'Here's a sculptural form with an advanced cladding system.' It's to reinvent a standard assembly system." In contrast to Legacy ER - Allen's dynamic facade, the building's interior features blurred edges and soft natural light. The dissimilarity is meant to embody the two sides of the physician's nature. "We know that the physician owners are very competent, but, more importantly, they are human, and they are very good people. We wanted to reflect that duality in the facility," said Ong. "To achieve that we employed two different architectural languages: on the exterior, the building has very sharp geometry, which is reflective of the physician's professionalism and their ability. On the interior, there are gentle curves, and the daylight is diffuse. It's very gentle on the inside." Legacy ER took a risk in selecting a cutting-edge design for a medical clinic located in the Dallas suburbs, said Ong. "As much confidence as our client had coming into the relationship with 5G Studio, we didn't know how far we could push this next project. Frisco was nowhere close to this," he said. But the gamble paid off, and the result is a building that, beyond boosting Legacy ER's brand, sets a new standard for healthcare design. "We felt like this piece will challenge the perception that healthcare architecture is a subset of practice so burdened with technical requirements that it's nothing more than healthcare architecture," said Ong. "We hope to contribute to the notion that healthcare architecture is just architecture."