Search results for "morphosis"

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Ithaca on the East River
New buildings on Roosevelt Island will follow rigorous sustainability principles.
Courtesy Kilograph

The first three buildings and first phase of the landscape of the new Cornell NYCTech campus on Roosevelt Island, emphasizing collaboration across disciplines and sustainable design principles, were revealed at the end of December. Thom Mayne of Morphosis is designing the largest building, which will include classrooms, labs, and collaborative educational spaces. Weiss/Manfredi is designing a hybrid educational and commercial incubator building on the Queens facing side of the island. Handel Architects are designing a tower adjacent to the Queensboro Bridge for student and faculty housing.

Mayne’s trapezoidal building features a central core that aligns with 57th Street on the Manhattan Street grid. The residential and incubator buildings frame another view corridor out to Queens. A vast super structure supports a giant solar array, which will allow the building to produce as much energy as its occupants consume. “Aligning with Cornell Tech’s interdisciplinary academic mission, the design merges site planning, building planning, engineering, and architecture into an integrated and performative solution,” wrote Mayne in a statement. A ground floor café, accessible to the public, will help link the campus back to the more developed northern end of the island.


Weiss/Manfredi’s seven-story building, dubbed the “Corporate Co-Location Building,” will contain spaces for research and development projects for industry and the academy. It too features a large rooftop solar array and is aiming for net-zero energy use. Manfredi called the building “a flexible platform bringing industry and the academy together.”

The residential building is only in the schematic phase, but Handel emphasized that there will be apartments of all sizes, from large faculty apartments suited for families, to modest studios for students. The building is expected to house about 550 people. The project uses passive design principles with the goal of creating a carbon neutral facility.

A new park by Field Operations will connect the campus.

James Corner Field Operations will connect to the existing island esplanade and weave a series of intimate gathering areas with more open spaces. Strategies are being put in place to retain all stormwater onsite. Park space will total two and a half acres.

At the press unveiling, Mayne spoke about the need to improve connectivity to the island, possibly with a pedestrian and cyclist connection off the Queensboro Bridge or adding ferry service. While the island’s population and activity will go with these first three buildings, they are only the beginning. The full campus will eventually include five additional buildings, possibly for educational use or for private industry.

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Pittfalls in New Orleans: Brad Pitt’s “Make It Right” Houses Need Repair
The houses built by Brad Pitt's charitable organization, Make it Right, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are already in need of refurbishing. The foundation is part of an effort to restore New Orleans' 9th Ward through the construction of 150 architect-designed homes featuring modern design, but the timber used on the exteriors of many of the homes is proving no match for the area's moisture and is beginning to rot.  The charity has said it will work with their provider TimberSIL to solve the problems with the rapidly decaying wood. Pitt founded Make it Right to offer green sustainable architectural contributions to New Orlean's recovery efforts. The actor called upon prominent figures within the Los Angeles architectural scene—Frank Gehry, Hitoshi Abe, Thom Mayne, and Lawrence Scarpa among others—to create affordable houses to be installed in the neighborhood of the city hardest-hit by the storm. Shigeru Ban and David Adjaye have also contributed designs to the foundation. In 2009 he met with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi to discuss his efforts in New Orleans and sustainable housing policy. The charity is another step in  the actor's ongoing and well-publicized flirtation with architecture. It is also not the first time one of his ambitious undertakings in the field has hit a bit of a stumbling block. Developed with affordability in mind, it seems unlikely that any of the Make it Right homes will feature pieces from the actor's 2012 furniture collection "priced at the highest end of the custom-furnishing scale."
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Stalled No More? Downtown Los Angeles Developments Could See New Life
Speaking of zombies, two of Downtown LA’s most long-stalled projects appear to be rising from the dead. The mixed-use project revolving around Julia Morgan’s beautiful Herald Examiner Building on Broadway is apparently finally getting underway, now developed by Forest City, and no longer designed by Morphosis. The designer has yet to be revealed. Also Metropolis, a multi-building megaproject designed at one point by Michael Graves back in the 1990s, is apparently being brought back by Gensler. Of course downtown giveth and downtown taketh away. We hear that Johnson Fain, who were previously designing the Bloc development, a makeover of the former Macy’s Plaza, is no longer on the project. Studio One Eleven are now, according to a project spokesperson, “moving forward with implementation.” Johnson Fain had been “engaged to assist with the development of the concept and to oversee the schematic design phase of the Bloc.” Too bad they couldn’t finish the job.
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Change & Xchange
Lara Almarcegui's Buried House in Oak Cliff Gardens.
Allison V. Smith for the Nasher

Nasher Xchange
Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora Street, Dallas
Through February 16

It’s hard to believe that only a little over 10 years ago the full-block site in the northern part of downtown Dallas, where the Nasher Sculpture Center now stands, was a surface parking lot abutting a major freeway among several other parking lots and empty sites. Seen from the point of view of Dallas Arts District old-timers, such as the Dallas Museum of Art (1983 by Edward Larabee Barnes) or the Meyerson Symphony Center (1989 by I.M. Pei), the Nasher is a newcomer. Yet, in its short life the Sculpture Center has already seen the boom of a younger generation of cultural buildings that includes the Winnspear Opera (Foster + Partners), the Wyly Theater (REX/OMA), and the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (Brad Cloepfil/Allied Works), that all opened before the close of the first decade of the new century. Since 2010, the City Performance Hall (SOM) and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Thom Mayne/Morphosis) have opened, and, perhaps more surprisingly, the depressed freeway has been covered and converted to the five-acre Klyde Warren Park (James Burnett). Light rail train tracks have been laid in Olive Street, which borders the Nasher to the east, and on that same side stands the largest and most problematic newcomer, the 42-story residential Museum Tower, which is clad in a highly reflective glass skin that beams afternoon sun back through the brise-soleil that covers Renzo Piano’s glass-roofed exhibition spaces and makes hay out of Peter Walker’s sculpture garden lawn. Otherwise, at its ten-year milestone, the Nasher looks good and the garden has matured and appears lush. Now it is less difficult to imagine that in another ten years the currently under populated streets of the 70-acre Arts District might become lively and full of pedestrians, and the decidedly autonomous buildings of the area might somehow congeal to form a more coherent whole.

Rachel Harrison's Moore to the point at City Hall Plaza.

To celebrate its tenth anniversary the Nasher has thrown a four-month party for itself, for the District, and for Dallas in the form of XChange, a public sculpture exhibition of ten works by ten artists on ten sites around the city. For the opening, the Nasher extended invitations to visit all of the pieces with the artists and organizers. Some of the participating artists (Lara Almarcegui, Good/Bad Art Collective, Rachel Harrison, Alfredo Jaar, Liz Larner, Charles Long, Rick Lowe, Vicki Meek, Ruben Ochoa, and Ugo Rondinone) are local, while others come from afar. Some are well known while others are less so. Each artist was given a tour of potential sites and was allowed to select one that personally inspired them. The sites are generally located within a 25-mile long, north/south swath of the city that contains a variety of cultural, economic, and physical characteristics of the urban, sub-urban, and non-urban context. They include the hardwood forests of the Trinity River bottomland and the historically African American Paul Quinn College campus to the south, a skyscraper and the Nasher site itself downtown, and a high-end shopping mall and high-tech university building to the north. XChange is obviously meant to create exchanges with and among memory, media, monuments, time, technology, consumerism, charity, community, race, nature, and daily cycles. It is meant to speak to various locations and aspects of the city and help Dallas see itself. Since the works are generally large in scale, many take on an architectural quality, as commissions requiring significant collaboration and execution by teams.

Ruben Ohoa's Flock in Space at the Trinity River Audubon Center.

The ten public sculptures are birthday presents, and as with any important gift giving occasion, some will be perfect, others will be gags, and others will be more for the giver than the receiver. XChange is more provocative and revealing when considered as an ensemble. Individual pieces such as Buried House (which is exactly what its title suggests) can be highly cerebral with few tactile, visual, or experiential qualities. Others, such as Trans.lation, have no traditional sculptural presence, but are high-aspiration, long-term social activism as art. Many of the pieces were conceived as ephemeral, lasting only the four months of the exhibition, while others should become a permanent part of the Dallas cityscape. Ideally, XChange would be a thread of change to stitch the city together in diverse manners. For uninitiated passersby, however, some of the pieces will likely not be recognized as works of art.

With the celebration of XChange, the Nasher also offered itself a critique of the museum in general. Artists often want to get out of the museum, and by its very nature public art is not disposed to display within a gallery. In comparison to their freely accessible, public sculptures, the artists spoke of museums as intimidating and catering to an elite public, perpetuating barriers between art and life, and overly mediating the experience of art. Art in a space without guards, they said, is better.

There is a spirit of collaboration among the institutions of the Arts District, and with the opening of XChange the Dallas Museum of Art placed a shipping container outside its south entrance to exhibit three projects responding to the Dallas CityDesign Studio’s Connected City Design Challenge. The projects are by Ricardo Bofill, OMA-AMO, and the team of Stoss and SHoP. The challenge is to reconnect downtown Dallas to a part of the Trinity River located approximately one mile to the west. Ironically, this portion of the river was closer to downtown before and was actually moved by a half mile toward the west in the mid-1800s. The space now contains freeways, railroad tracks, and the like. At a glance, the three projects are surprisingly similar, a bit generic, and emphasize high-rise and low-rise, nature and urbanism, transportation and infrastructure, density and cultural venues, and in some cases willfully impose geometric forms on the urban plan. The projects seem to lack the complexity of the Dallas seen while visiting the public sculptures. The Connected City Design Challenge will be a good opportunity to see if XChange really helps Dallas to see itself.

On a practical note, it makes for a very full, but interesting day to visit all of the XChange public sculptures.

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Imagine There’s No Countries
Courtesy Metropolis Books

A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for Urban America
By Vishaan Chakrabarti
Metropolis Books, $30

Seemingly everywhere, all the time, Vishaan Chakrabarti delivers a timely, or well-coordinated, rally cry to vanquish exurbs and even suburbs in pursuit of the hyperdensification of urban centers as the route to a more sustainable future—environmentally, economically, and socially. In his new book, Chakrabarti supports this argument with 250 pages of well-written, though slightly redundant, prose and clear illustrations. Redundancy here is not a bad thing because many of his basic claims seem to have gone unheeded for decades to disastrous and steadily worsening outcomes.

Part info graphic, part manifesto, and part plea, A Country of Cities grows from a series of articles Chakrabarti began writing in 2009 for Urban Omnibus, the Architectural League of New York’s website dedicated to urbanism. Collected here the missives lose none of their impact, relevance, or timeliness in urging for a densification of American cities.

Much of Chakrabarti’s argument comes down to the densification and intertwining of living, working, infrastructure, and transportation. Currently the earth’s population of 7 billion people could fit in the land area of Texas at 25 dwelling units per acre, still under the economic threshold to develop subway or rail lines. In the U.S., 3 percent of the land—i.e. large cities—produces 85 percent of the GDP while consuming less energy per capita than suburban townships.


In order to get beyond this current malaise of overstretched infrastructure and greenhouse gasses, A Country of Cities argues for hyperdensification in which centers of population are concentrated at minimally 30 housing units per acre in order to be able to provide a tax base for public transportation and walkable mixed-use neighborhoods.

The book grows out of the presupposition that the nation would choose to live more densely. Maybe this is where Chakrabarti’s manifesto falls short—in a democracy politicians cannot curb so easily what people do not want to change. “Despite all the changes politicians promise, reforming our sprawling, gluttonous lifestyle is never among them,” Chakrabarti points out.

After World War II, suburbanization began whittling away in earnest at the U.S.’s pro-urban stance. Vehicle and fuel manufacturers lobbied against mass transit. The National Housing Act of 1934 reduced depression-era foreclosures and promoted affordable mortgages for single-family homes. The Federal Highway Act of 1956 funded highways out of urban centers. A perfect storm for the rise of suburbs—a tab the government charged and citizens continue to pay.

Without multiple nodes of density, the U.S. loses out on the transit-oriented development made possible with increased density around train stations through more housing, cultural, retail, and commercial properties—think New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and increasingly Beijing and Shanghai, and Europe on a grander scale. Cities are dense activity centers connected by high-speed rail with open land between—land for farming and recreation, not endless suburban sprawl.


The second half of the book provides a road map of possibilities in creating hyperdense communities by overcoming “contextual zoning” and planning for the future, not merely meeting the present. This includes infrastructure—transit and utilities, but also parks, health care, cultural venues, a lively street life with shops and pedestrian amenities—things that support a quality of life. Chakrabarti, who is a partner at SHoP Architects, illustrates these points with such examples as OMA’s Seattle Public Library, Morphosis’ Perot Museum in Dallas, and a number of SHoP projects, including the Atlantic Yards—”one of the most important redevelopment projects.” SHoP also provides illustrations that appear every other page to provide a sense of scale to the relative quantities of energy usage, tax dollars spent for infrastructure, time and fuel spent commuting, or flow charts of capital, for example.

Chakrabarti makes it sound so easy. By diverting funds from mortgage interest deduction to affordable urban housing and from overextended and underutilized infrastructure to the American Smart Infrastructure Act, aggregated tax bases will support educational and cultural programs that breed innovation and opportunity. The hardest part is getting both politicians and people to buy in and to change their views. By Chakrabarti’s calculations it is nothing short of a holistic policy reform, but the results will take us less time to achieve than it took to get this current malaise.

Chakrabarti summarizes by asking readers to imagine a global network of environmental, economically viable, diverse cities governed by concerns of today’s citizens. It is utopian in outlook, but “everything should be on the table” at this moment of national crisis.  However, I cannot help but recall the opening scene of last year’s cinema flop Judge Dredd, based on the wonderful comic book of the same name. As the film opens and pans across a barren wasted landscape, Mega-City One comes into view—a hyperdense city with some living in tower blocks of 50,000-plus inhabitants that operate as city-states, crime havens, and urban oases. In Chakrabarti’s call to arms, I can’t help but think of John Lennon: “You may say I’m a dreamer / But I’m not the only one.”

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Now Playing at a Theater Near You: Five Los Angeles Landmarks
In November, the Los Angeles City Council named Armet & Davis' Johnie’s Coffee Shop, the restaurant at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, a historic cultural landmark. That’s a win for preservationists concerned with the legacy of the Googie style, the auto-oriented, steel-and-neon aesthetic that spawned diners and coffee shops across Southern California from the 1940s through the 1960s. It might also give a leg up to locals interested in seeing Johnie’s returned to its original use. Because Johnie’s Coffee Shop isn’t a coffee shop, and hasn’t been for over a decade. Since 2000, it’s been closed to the public and used exclusively for filming. The restaurant’s film credits, both before and after its conversion to a 24/7 theatrical set, include The Big Lebowski and Reservoir Dogs. But while the best use for a building like Johnie's might have a stronger community orientation, in the meantime its co-optation by the film industry isn't all bad.  When it takes over a building, the film industry buys time for preservationists and others hoping to breathe new life into an under-used landmark, Adrian Scott Fine, Director of Advocacy at the Los Angeles Conservancy explained.  "It's kind of an advantage that Los Angeles has over other cities," he said.  In addition, "People discover buildings through film," Scott said.  "Johnie's, some of the films it's been in, it's clearly the star of the film."  Approximately two years ago, the Los Angeles Conservancy honored Mad Men and its creator, Matthew Weiner, for the way in which it showcases midcentury modern architecture.  Weiner has been active in efforts to preserve Los Angeles landmarks, Fine said, and the show has featured preservation-themed plot lines, including the demolition of New York's Penn Station. This all got us thinking: what other LA architectural landmarks are now used primarily as stage sets? The answer, it turns out, is quite a few. From one of Julia Morgan’s earliest Hearst commissions to a 1958 Pereira & Luckman high-rise, here’s our list of Los Angeles masterworks currently in the hands of the film industry. Herald Examiner Building (Downtown, Broadway and 11th Street) Media magnate William Randolph Hearst commissioned 2014 AIA Gold Medal recipient Julia Morgan to design a new headquarters building for the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper in 1913, ten years after the paper’s founding. When the Herald Examiner, the Los Angeles Examiner’s successor, went under in 1989, the Hearst Corporation held on to the structure. In 2008, Brenda Levin (who cites Julia Morgan as her role model) was set to renovate the building—but then the economy tanked. Plans to rehabilitate the building, and build two Morphosis-designed residential towers adjacent to it, were put on indefinite hold. Today, the Herald Examiner building is used exclusively for filming. Scenes in The Usual Suspects, Dreamgirls, Spider-Man 3, Zoolander, Castle, Bones, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, plus music videos by Eminem, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera were shot there. Interior location sets include an apartment, bar, jail, and police station. Park Plaza Hotel (Westlake, 607 South Park View Street) Art Deco and Corporate Moderne architect Claud Beelman designed the Park Plaza Hotel as Elks Lodge No. 99 in 1925. During the 1932 Olympics, the building hosted several indoor swimming events. The Park Plaza, which is listed as a Los Angeles historic-cultural landmark, features four ballrooms: the Grand Ballroom, whose decorated ceiling beams were modeled after a palace in Florence; the Art Deco Terrace Room, formerly the Elks Lodge meeting room; the Bronze Ballroom, distinguished by its copper-gilded columns; and the smaller Gold Room, named for the gold-leaf detail on its Corinthian columns. Both indoor and outdoor spaces, including the Tuscan Patio, can be rented for filming, weddings, and other events. Greystone Mansion (Beverly Hills, 501 Doheny Road) The lavish Beverly Hills estate known as Greystone Mansion was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann beginning in 1925 for Edward Laurence Doheny, Jr., son of Los Angeles’s original oil magnate. Kaufmann, who would go on to design both the Hoover Dam and the Los Angeles Times building, designed the fifty-five room mansion in the Tudor style. The estate gained notoriety soon after construction finished, when Doheny, Jr. was found dead of an apparent murder-suicide. The City of Beverly Hills purchased the property in 1955, and built a reservoir on the site. The grounds of the mansion are open to the public, while the interior is available for filming and events. Greystone Mansion is featured in movies including The Muppets, The Social Network, What Women Want, Air Force One, and Ghostbusters. Los Angeles Theatre (Downtown, Broadway and 6th Street) In the ultimate Hollywood irony, the Los Angeles Theatre now just plays one on TV. The film palace was designed in 1931 by S. Charles Lee, after the Fox Theatre in San Francisco. A popular theater designer, Lee’s other Los Angeles buildings include the Alex Theatre, the Saban Theatre (formerly the Fox Wilshire), the Star Theatre, and the Tower Theatre. The Los Angeles Theatre, which the Los Angeles Conservancy calls “[t]he most lavish . . . of Broadway’s great movie palaces,” features a six-story lobby with a Louis XIV-inspired sunburst motif, plus a glass-ceiling ballroom and a nursery decorated with a circus theme. The building is available for rent as a film location, and for special events, live stage performances, and film screenings.  "[The film industry] has certainly been instrumental in keeping the theaters going, where historic theaters are certainly one of the most difficult [building types] to adapt," Fine said.  "I'm not sure, if you look at other cities with historic theaters, if we hadn't had the filming industry doing things, we probably would have lost them." Los Angeles Center Studios (City West, 1501 W. Fifth Street) When the Los Angeles Center Studios’ original tower, designed by Pereira & Luckman, was completed in 1958, it was the tallest structure in downtown LA. Hexagonal in shape, the International Style building is entirely unornamented, except for the aluminum sunshades at the base of each window. By 1998 the building, which was originally designed as part of Union Oil’s headquarters, was threatened with demolition. A group of developers bought the complex and converted it into a full-service TV, film, and commercial production studio. The Pereira & Luckman tower is now dedicated to entertainment and creative office space.
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Morphosis' Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
Iwan Baan

A lot of the people who write for us, including some of our in-house editorial staff, have critical ideas about architecture. Here’s what they said about several different buildings in 2013.


Klyde Warren Park

Can a new highway-cap park unite Downtown Dallas in pedestrian-friendly planning?



Hunter's Point South Park

Alan G. Brake explores New York's newest waterfront park by Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi.



Morphosis' Model Museum

Michael Webb explores the firm's first museum, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.



Chipperfield's SLAM Dunk

Sophisticated expansion at the St. Louis Art Museum exhibits deferential monumentality.



Greeks and Geeks

Ennead's Bing Concert Hall helps build an arts district on Stanford's campus.



The Hepcat Seat

New performance space for the San Francisco Jazz Society achieves an elegant simplicity.



Kimbell Art Museum Piano Pavilion

Renzo Piano creates a subtle counterweight to Louis Kahn's masterwork in Fort Worth.



Day Court

Richard Meier's new federal courthouse gives downtown San Diego a new civic icon.



Metalsa Center

Brooks + Scarpa design an innovative manufacturing and research facility in Mexico.



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Morphosis Selected To Design New U.S. Embassy in Beirut
Three years after an unsuccessful bid for a chance to design the U.S. Embassy in London, Morphosis Architects has won a different Department of State project: a new Embassy for Beirut, Lebanon. The firm was selected from a shortlist that also included Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Mack Scogin Merrill Elam/AECOM. The new Embassy will be located near the current facilities in Awkar, roughly seven miles from Beirut. The Embassy moved away from the capital in 1983, following a suicide bomb attack that killed 49 Embassy staff. A second bombing in 1984 killed 11. Restrictions on American travel to Lebanon were not lifted until 1997, seven years after the official end of the Lebanese civil war. U.S. Department of State spokesperson Christine Foushee said that while the history of the Embassy in Beirut is unique, the security requirements of the new building will not differ significantly from other Embassy projects. Every major project built by the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) must meet certain security standards in order to qualify for funding from Congress, she explained. The OBO put out a public call for submissions as part of its Excellence in Diplomatic Facilities initiative. “All of the designers that were short-listed, we feel, are very capable of incorporating [security] requirements,” Foushee said. “The real challenge, and the place where we were looking for innovation and creativity, was ensuring that the security requirements were met, but were integrated seamlessly into the design.” After seeing Morphosis’s proposal, the selection committee was confident that the firm would design a secure Embassy that “doesn’t look like a fortress,” she explained. The firm’s commitment to sustainability also impressed the OBO committee. According to Foushee, sustainable design, including planning for storm water and waste water management, is especially important in a project, like the new Embassy, that includes a housing component. Morphosis furthermore demonstrated an understanding of the OBO’s need for flexible interiors. “We have a need for sometimes accommodating a quick surge in staff,” Foushee said. An adaptable design will allow the Embassy to provide housing and office space for extra employees without additional construction. Finally, the design selection committee appreciated Morphosis’ experience working with technologies including 3D modeling. Integrating technology into the design process “is important for controlling costs, but also ensuring the quality of the project,” Foushee said. The design contract for the Beirut Embassy will be awarded during FY 2014, either before the new year or at the start of the 2014 calendar year, Foushee said. The construction contract will be awarded during FY 2016.
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icons_blog-3 Facades+ PERFORMANCE is only ten days away! Space is filling up fast, so don’t miss your chance to be part of this groundbreaking, two-day convergence of the industry’s leading innovators. Register today to take advantage of our exclusive educational opportunities, including a day-long symposium examining new perspectives on building skins and sustainable practices, and hands-on technical workshops in the latest design and analysis technologies that are revolutionizing contemporary architecture. And don’t forget about our in-depth, seminar-style dialog workshops, in which leading professionals from across the AEC industry sit down with you to discuss their most innovative recent projects. Space is limited, and some sessions are already SOLD OUT, so sign up today to reserve you seat! Join the movement that is changing the face of the built environment, only at Facades+ PERFORMANCE – Chicago, Oct. 24-25th! The conference kicks off next Thursday morning with a keynote address from founding principal of Behnisch Architekten, Stefan Behnisch, as he discusses the evolving role of building enclosures amidst ever-advancing technologies. The symposium will continue throughout the day as representatives from SOM, Thornton Tomasetti, Rojkind Arquitectos, and other leading firms will discuss the most pressing issues in sustainable, high-performance facades. Registered architects can earn 8 AIA LU/HSW credits. The following day, attendees can customize their schedules to best suit their professional goals. Sign up for two, half-day dialog workshops to join representatives from SHoP Construction, Gehry Technologies, Morphosis, and other industry leaders for intimate discussions of exciting, real-world case studies. Or register for our cutting-edge technology workshops, and join the experts for full-day, project-based instruction in the most relevant applications of breakthrough technologies, like environmental analysis with Grasshopper and Ladybug, and parametric facade design with Dynnamo for Revit—another exciting opportunity to score your AIA credits! For a complete schedule of events, check out the full Facades+ PERFORMANCE site.
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Cornell University’s Gates Hall
Courtesy Morphosis

A little more than ten years ago, Cornell University launched a Computing and Information Sciences (CIS) program. Its purpose is to meld technical and social intellectual approaches in a single department dedicated to developing innovative solutions to complicated problems. Administratively, CIS brought together three disparate but complementary disciplines: computer science, information science, and statistics. Physically, however, these fields continued to operate from separate facilities both spread throughout the Cornell Campus, as well as in rented office space in downtown Ithaca, New York. In order to create a truly cohesive culture for this otherwise balkanized program Cornell needed a new building designed for its particular needs.

Los Angeles–based Morphosis, which also has an office in New York City, delivered a 100,000-square-foot, five-story building that is currently completing construction on the corner of Campus and Hoy roads, directly adjacent to the Cornell Big Red’s baseball diamond. While in essence a simple, efficient, rectangular plan and elevation, the design features several elements—including a twisting stainless steel sun screen and a protruding arm of the upper floors hovering above the main entrance—that make it an unmistakable product of Morphosis as well as a suitable looking enclosure for a discipline forged by the realities of the digital age.

A perforated stainless steel screen system shades the glazed facade, mitigating heat gain and glare.
Courtesy YKK AP; Courtesy Morphosis

The protruding arm shelters the entrance, which is itself raised above street level and fronted by a sculptural display of staggered stone blocks known as the “rock pile.” The entry plaza is accessed by a ramp from Campus Road or via a staircase ascending from Hoy Field (the baseball diamond). Morphosis decided to cover the entrance with the upper floors in order to provide some shelter from Ithaca’s long and inclement winters. Indeed, throughout the project, public spaces that have been designed to promote interaction among the faculty and student body have been housed primarily inside, as opposed to in semi-enclosed or outdoor spaces, as they might be in California. The one exception is the south courtyard, which connects to the foyer of the building’s lecture hall in a subterranean level and provides breakout space for the department. This landscaped zone can be used as an informal study and gathering area during pleasant weather and also provides ramp access to Hoy Field.

For the most part, the building’s public spaces are housed in the full-height grand entrance atrium, which also houses the building’s central vertical circulation corridor. The design promotes the use of open stairways that provide views throughout the entire atrium. The idea is that this will increase the chances of the building’s users seeing and interacting with each other, as opposed to elevators, which the designers decided would limit such opportunities. In addition to circulation space, lounges (housed within the protruding arm) and conference rooms ring the atrium and the entire volume is naturally lit via a skylight.

Gates Hall encourages interaction between students and faculty through a stair-oriented vertical circulation atrium surrounded by public spaces.
Courtesy Morphosis

Locating the facility’s primary vertical circulation off the atrium at the western extremity of the building allowed the architects to maximize the rest of the plan for the main programmatic spaces: laboratories and offices. The labs, which occupy the perimeters of the floors, where they enjoy daylight and views, are not like scientific wet labs with rows of benches for beakers and plenty of safety plumbing and ventilation infrastructure. Nor are they like typical classrooms with rows of desks facing a blackboard. Rather they are more in the vein of a digital startup’s office. While there may not be any beanbags or ping pong tables, the rooms are large, open plan, and informal, outfitted with workstations—large tables—capable of accommodating several students at once working on a group project.

As cold as Ithaca may be for most of the year, when Morphosis clad the building in 35,000 square feet of YKK AP’s enerGfacade unitized glass-and-aluminum curtain wall, outfitted with 1 3/16-inch high-performance Viracon IGUs, its primary concern was mitigating heat gain and glare. In order to accomplish this, the firm reused a tactic that it had developed for its Cooper Union building: a perforated stainless steel panel system that shelters the glazing, supported on outrigger fins that attach to the exterior of the curtain wall. This stainless steel screen system clads floors two through four, creating a different expression on the exterior for these levels, what Morphosis calls “the floating bar.” To open up clear views to some of the key campus features that surround the building, the architects twisted the screen system in places, so that the panels bend from vertical to horizontal and back. Thanks to this feature of the design, students will now be able to take in whatever action may be happening on Hoy Field to the south, or gaze upon the impressive neo-gothic stone bulk of Barton Hall to the north.

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Join Leading Industry Professionals at Rem Koolhaas’ Chicago IIT Campus Center for Facades+PERFORMANCE!
Facades+ PERFORMANCE, presented by The Architect's Newspaper and Enclos, is the latest in our breakthrough series of conferences which seek to address the most pressing issues in the design, fabrication, and construction of cutting-edge, sustainable building enclosures. Join us in Chicago from October 24th-25th as leading professionals from across the AEC industries converge for two days of symposia, panels, and workshops to explore the latest strategies for delivering innovative facades amidst increasing standards of geometric complexity and environmental performance. Architects, engineers, developers, consultants, and other industry professionals are invited to take part in this exciting event. Be there as German architect Stefan Behnisch, founding partner of Behnisch Architekten, delivers his featured keynote address on the shifting role of the building skin in the wake of emerging technologies. Network with fellow professionals and join in the dialog with representatives from SOM, Gehry Technologies, Morphosis, SHoP, Thornton Tomasetti, and other industry-leading firms. From cocktails in Rem Koolhaas–designed IIT McCormick Tribune Campus Center, to hands-on workshops in the latest design technologies and intimate discussions of some of today's most exciting projects, this is one event you cannot afford to miss. Register today to join the revolution that is changing the face of our built environment. “With the challenges we face in the built environment, facades are becoming more and more an integral element of architectural design and engineering,” said Behnisch in a statement. “It is not only the visual appearance but also the performance of a building that depend on the facade.” With dozens of completed projects across Europe and the United States, Behnisch has made a name for himself through the dynamic forms, state-of-the-art facades, and the socially and environmentally sustainable focus of his work. As our featured keynote speaker, Behnisch will draw from his professional experience discuss the evolving functions of facades and the architect’s role within this changing landscape. “In the search for a more sustainable built environment, we, the architects have to assess the conditions under which our buildings have to be built and the conditions under which they have to perform. Whilst in the second half of the 20th century, the International Style allowed us to build similar buildings within many different climates, we cannot afford to do this anymore. …Today, we have to analyze the climatic, the cultural, the geopolitical, the social, the geographical and the topographical conditions of our potential buildings.” The seats are filling up fast, so reserve your space today to hear more from Behnisch and the rest of the exciting lineup of presenters at Facades+ PERFORMANCE! For the full schedule of events, check out the complete Facades+ site.
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Disney Hall and the Character of LA
Frank Gehry's Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles.
Tony Hoffarth / Flickr

In October Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall turns 10, and it’s an exciting anniversary. The dazzling building has become an international icon for the city, and for its revitalized downtown. It also remains a wonderful place to attend a concert, as most who have gone can attest. But in many ways it represents what’s still wrong with LA’s approach to building and planning.

While it pushes up against the sidewalk, the hall still stands relatively aloof from its surroundings on Grand Avenue, adding little besides its fantastic form to the streetscape, which ten years later still feels empty and alien. Its raised rear park is a hidden gem, but there’s no such luck in front of the building, where visitors are greeted with hot sun, glare, and a rather unfriendly grand stair. And the hall stands on a street that to this day does not welcome pedestrians. It lacks appropriate green space, shade, and small-scale activity needed to make this a true destination outside of concert time. Disney’s one street-side restaurant, Patina, is only for the very richest, via reservation, and there are few places (outside of the new Grand Park down the street) to entice lingering or street life nearby. Hopefully the addition of the Broad next door will add to the interest, but unless the area around it is addressed it will just become another empty monument.

In celebrating this anniversary we need to embrace the kind of architectural innovation that Disney Hall represents, but demand equal urban innovation around it. A building—no matter how stunning—is not just an object, and that’s something that always needs to be considered. And a street—even one lined with world-class museums—is not an object either.

There are many other buildings in Los Angeles with similar dichotomies between architectural splendor and urban misfortune. Morphosis’ Caltrans building down the street is a marvel, but its courtyard is often empty and the zone around it does not promote civic life. While a new master plan may change this, for now, though Union Station is one of the finest buildings in the country, it remains locked off by roads on all sides, like a moat. The Department of Water and Power, while one of my favorite buildings in the city, certainly doesn’t promote walking along its perimeter. It’s all about drive in and drive out.

In so many other cities modernist monuments stand aloof from their surroundings, standing tall amid windswept plazas and busy thoroughfares. New buildings can’t repeat these mistakes.

In contrast to Disney, Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao is more successful urbanistically because the plazas around it encourage thousands to linger, and the city has developed an urban experience around it through bridges, walkways, and cafes, that ask you to come for more than just the building. Renzo Piano’s buildings at LACMA are not his best work, but the urban spaces around them have been intelligently activated with a restaurant, a bar, a plaza, and large-scale art installations.

In the next decade we need to ensure that world-class buildings continue to go up. But also that world-class urban life goes up around them.