All posts in East

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Concrete Wrapping

Boston University's Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre takes center stage with concrete and aluminum
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Commonwealth Avenue, snaking from the Boston Public Garden through the greater metropolitan area, is no stranger to significant cultural venues and institutional buildings. Boston University’s Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre and College of Fine Arts Production Center, by local firm Elkus Manfredi Architects, joins this assemblage with an angled glass curtainwall shrouded in a scrim of ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) and flanked by vertical strips of metal panels.
  • Facade Manufacturer Beton Centria Sentech Architectural Systems
  • Architect Elkus Manfredi Architects
  • Facade Installer Stantec Centria Sunrise Erectors
  • Facade Consultant Gordon H Smith
  • Location Brookline, MA
  • Date of Completion December 2017
  • System Custom-designed Sentech curtainwall
  • Products Beton UHPC panels Centria Kolorshift
The 75,000-square-foot building rises to a height of approximately 57 feet and largely follows a rectangular massing. While the majority of elevations rise perpendicularly from the ground level, the north elevation is defined by a 42-foot-tall glass curtainwall tilted at a 14-degree angle. The glass panes, measuring 7-feet-by-14 feet, were structurally adhered on site and lifted into place using a custom steeling rigging system. A scrim of UHPC panels frames the primary northern elevation and folds onto the east and west elevations, a design feature intended to evoke a proscenium screen shrouding the entrance of the theater. In total, there are 83 UHPC panels measuring 14-feet by 7-feet, each weighing approximately 1,600 pounds. Tubular steel outriggers, cantilevered from the slab edge and running horizontally, serve as a platform for the concrete panels. For Beton, a Montreal-based fabricator, the project was a first in their production of ultra-thin concrete.  "Not only does the color of the UHPC concrete tie the building into its immediate surroundings—including the sandstone former Cadillac dealership, a national landmark next door—the material can also take the desired form reminiscent of theatrical fabric, unlike stone," said Elkus Manfredi Architects vice president Ross Cameron. "The engineered concrete-polymer material has three times the tensile strength of traditional concrete yet weighs half as much, so the design team pushed to use the material in these new ways, striving for ever thinner and delicate forms." Besides the entrance atrium, there are limited chances of fenestration across the rest of the building due to performance spaces within. For the remaining elevations, the design team opted for Ipe wood and aluminum siding. Produced by Centria, and treated with their Kolorshift PVDF, the aluminum panels reflect different colors depending on their exposure to sunlight—their character effectively morphs according to weather, time of day, and season. This dichroic effect is amplified along the northern corners of the east and west, where the aluminum panels were installed diagonally, producing a wave-like effect of color differentiation. The relative formality of the south elevation, along Dummer Street, is a response to the immediately adjacent residential neighborhood. Throughout the design process, the design team met regularly with the surrounding community to address their concerns. The use of Ipe wood softens this elevation and links it materially to it wooden dropside neighbors, while louvered windows provide glimpses within.  
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Double Dutch 2.0

Could jump roping robots change how we think about architectural drawing?

"Movement was always an underlying instigator to how I look at form," explains architect Amina Blacksher, who began ballet at age six. Her work crosses boundaries and unifies seemingly disparate practices, as she now, among many other things, uses the tools and methods of an architect to investigate the place of robots in our lives and the relationship between the analog and digital. Most recently, her explorations of movement and robotics have taken the form of two arms that join humans to play jump rope.

Two industrial robotic arms from ABB, jointed similarly to a human's, swing ropes in partnership with a human while people Double Dutch amid the ropes. Custom 3D-printed grips are attached to the robotic manipulators to hold on to the ropes but also to allow for human error, like stepping on a rope, without toppling over the robots.

The Double Dutch project began at Princeton University during the Black Imagination Matters incubator and Blacksher has continued to develop the project, exploring the cultural history of jumping—from children’s games to the Maasai jumping tradition, trying to evoke that “cleansing moment” when suspended in the air.

The Double Dutch robots reveal the intelligence inherent in our bodies: the fact that children’s games possess so much kinetic knowledge that we often overlook and that there is such a profound complexity to sensing and moving through our world. "Rhythm is something we often take for granted," said Blacksher, “but even a simple circle with a jump rope is not a continuous velocity. It’s weighted, it has a rhythmic bias.” It requires choreography, something that is seemingly so "simple" for humans, children even, but incredibly difficult for robots. And these ironies and oppositions are revealing.

The Double Dutch project is part of Blacksher’s mission to help us realize new relationships to robots and a more complicated relationship to the typically divided analog and digital. It's also about normalizing what is likely to become increasingly commonplace human-robot relationships.

As an architectural problem, robots could change how we make and understand space. "No arc is absolutely the same," Blacksher said of the swings made by the jump rope robot. “I’m compiling these micro-deviations to create a pseudospace that could be 3D printed or spun." In a way, the arcs these robots make are a form of architectural drawing, but a drawing through physical space in three dimensions. This is leading Blacksher to ask: “How do you make a drawing that has a duration?”

Architecture began with hand drawing and has obviously been radically impacted by 2D CAD software, then powerful 3D software suites, and more recent technologies like virtual reality. Robotics has the power of "redefining what a drawing is," said Blacksher, moving it into 3D space and “using the body again in the generation of a drawing in a way that makes the design process exponentially more intelligent.” By using digital and physical technology in real space and establishing a unique circuit of the relationships between code, movement, embodiment, image, and space, architects might find new tools and new ways of thinking through design problems. "It’s in the relationship between the analog and digital where I’m interested in finding form."

Blacksher’s research is ongoing. Some of it will be incorporated into future classes at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and updated Double Dutch robots will be exhibited in Los Angeles this fall. Blacksher hopes to "raise the stakes of holding robots to accountability in terms of rhythmic precision, and their relationship to  space and time." She hopes we can see a future where "robots are friends, not just something purely functional."

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Montauk Musings

Robert McKinley curates a shoppable bungalow in Montauk
Planning to join the herds of New Yorkers that'll head "out east" this summer. You might want to opt out of the standard sharehouse and book a stay at this thoughtful-designed beach bungalow instead. Located at the end of Long Island's South Fork, beyond the pricey Hamptons, this Montauk residence was just recently renovated and outfitted by celebrated interior design firm Studio Robert McKinley, to serve as both a weekend getaway and integrated showhome. The light, lime-washed white-wall, four-bedroom, ranch-style home features a carefully curated selection of furnishings, fixtures, finishes, and accessories that are all for purchase. The overall scheme reflects McKinley's sensibility while also paying homage to the locale's coastline and evoking the aesthetics of renowned seaside resorts in Europe. This Montauk home can be rented as of today. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.    
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New Museum, New Digs

OMA reveals first renderings of New Museum expansion
Today OMA revealed its design for the New Museum addition, a brawny 62,000-square-foot gallery expansion that leans into the contemporary art museum's current home on the Bowery. The seven-story building will replace an older loft that was home to the museum's incubator, NEW INC, as well as artists who had lived and worked in the building for decades. The new structure will align with the SANAA-designed main building's floorplates on three levels, doubling the current exhibition space. It will also sport additional space for education and community events, a spot for NEW INC, an 80-seat restaurant, studios, and more. The architects contend that it will be possible to see the vertical circulation through the laminated glass with metal mesh facade. OMA New York partner-in-charge Shohei Shigematsu is the design lead on the project, and New York's Cooper Robertson is the executive architect. The New Museum first announced OMA's involvement in the project in 2017. Rem Koolhaas, the co-founder of OMA, explained the design reasoning to the New York Times, which first reported on the expansion, as such: "One building is very enigmatic, and it did not seem fruitful to create an enigma next to an enigma." The project will break ground next year and is slated for completion in 2022.
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The Bigger Picture

Mapping Community unveils how public buildings get built in NYC
A new exhibition now on view at the Center for Architecture explains how money moves across New York’s public building sector. It’s a complex system that, if you’re not directly involved in it, can seem unnecessarily confusing and slow. Mapping Community: Public Investment in NYC demystifies how things like libraries, schools, and parks pop up, as well as the players behind them. Curated by Faith Rose, former executive director of the NYC Public Design Commission, and David Burney, professor of urban placemaking management at the Pratt Institute, the showcase walks viewers step-by-step through the process of capital planning. It’s spread out over two floors and utilizes a very clear and graphic layout so that the information is distilled to the audience in a digestible yet still visually distinctive manner.  “No one entity is responsible for the entire process, and even people deeply involved in one part aren’t always aware what the other pieces entail,” said Rose in a statement. “I don’t believe there has ever been an exhibition that tracks the mechanisms of capital planning from start to finish.”  There probably hasn’t.  That’s likely because New York City boasts one of the largest local government systems in the United States and its beast-of-a-procurement-process is less than transparent. But things are changing and this big-picture view of the “ecosystem of agencies” involved reveals the work it takes to make tangible improvements to the city. This knowledge, for better or for worse, arguably gives a viewer (or in this case, a local resident), the agency to insert themselves into the planning process and help shape their own neighborhood.  To communicate the complexity of the subject, the curators pieced together an in-depth look into one public project per borough, separated by typology, and detailed the planning process at the community level. One of those case studies centers on Essex Crossing, the massive, mixed-use development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A contentious construction project from the start, it was once an empty six-acre lot but now houses everything from luxury condos by SHoP Architects, to an affordable housing complex by Beyer Blinder Belle, a senior living community by Dattner Architects, and the newly-opened Essex Market.  This part of the exhibition tells the story of how Manhattan Community Board 3 and other local organizations fought over a series of negotiations with the NYC Economic Development Corporation, as well as the site’s developer, to get a new K-8 school in the program. Here, it explains why the Department of Education has currently decided not to move forward with building a new school. It also reveals how local needs in other areas can affect capital projects.  Whether it was the right thing to do or not, garnering this information allows locals and exhibition audiences to better understand how the 1.9-million-square-foot Essex Crossing has come to be, what its future may look like, and how they can have a say in that. According to Hayes Slade, 2019 AIANY President and principal of Slade Architecture, that’s the key to improving the city. “New Yorkers should feel empowered to be part of community-building,” she said, “and that is only possible if they are knowledgeable of the process.” Mapping Community will be on view through August 31. 
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Tabula Rasa

Valentin Loellmann's first New York solo show is an exercise in restrained artisanal experimentation
The careful fusing of natural wood and cast bronze produces a happenstance burnt-finish that craft-led designer Valentin Loellmann embraces when creating bespoke furniture pieces. In fact, the Maastricht-based German artisan rarely begins a new piece based on preliminary sketches. Rather, he allows the material and a bit of experience-driven technical expertise to drive his process. Though Loellmann composes sculptural works with a tabula rasa approach, they often take on the shape and reference of furniture archetypes: a Shaker-style chaise-lounge, airplane-wing-like bench, monolithic table, towering armoire, amoebic ladder, strategically-jointed chair, and even a semi-circular staircase. Currently on view at New York’s Twenty First Gallery, in partnership with Paris-based collectible design purveyor Galerie Gosserez, Loellmann’s first solo show in this city, presents a robust selection of monumental pieces, all somehow coated in a layer of iridescent copper or cast bronze. Patinated surfaces and marble slabs are encapsulated in organically-carved yet suggestively-angular dark wooden frames. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.  
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Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily

Foster + Partners reveals a totally timber boathouse on the Harlem River
If you row, row, row your boat gently down the Harlem River, you might end up at a new waterfront structure designed by global firm Foster + Partners. The boathouse was designed for Row New York, a nonprofit that offers academic programs and rowing classes to young people from low-income families. The 1,600-square-foot, almost-all-wood building in Inwood's Sherman Creek Park is meant to evoke the timber-framed boathouses that lined the Harlem River a century ago. A large wooden folding canopy will cantilever over a plaza and terrace on the shore side and provides shade, while the bottom level will be devoted to boat storage. "In envisioning a design for a boathouse that will serve a diverse population and be a resource to the community at large, I wanted to create a building that was both functional and accessible, but also one that responded to the Hudson River’s long history as a busy transportation hub," Norman Foster declared in a press release. "This timber boathouse will fit naturally into the landscape of the riverfront and will transform this stretch of the Harlem River into a lively gathering place for people from all communities." Foster + Partners is designing the project in association with Brooklyn-based Bade Stageberg Cox (BSC).
The new building will allow Row New York to serve five times as many students and to consolidate all its programming under one roof. There's a nice looking terrace on the top floor that will give early-rise-rowers a peep at the sun warming the city. (That view is well-deserved for any teen who voluntarily commits to being somewhere at 6 a.m.) Next to the terrace will be a flexible multipurpose space, plus lockers and classrooms. Wide ramps to the upper stories will make the two-story building 100 percent accessible, as well. Right now, Row New York is raising $35 million for building construction and operating costs.
A press announcement from the organization states that the project will break ground in 2020. It is slated to open in 2022.
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Passive Progressive

Harvard’s HouseZero is a live-in lab for sustainable renovation

The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) has completed the conversion of its 1920s-built home into a live-in living lab that offers a perpetual post-occupancy evaluation. Designed by Snøhetta and energy engineers Skanska Teknikk Norway, HouseZero, as the building is now known, requires zero energy for climate control, zero energy for daytime lighting, and releases zero carbon emissions. In addition to generating more energy than it will ever use, it will also generate extensive data about its own performance.

The renovation combines low-tech changes like larger windows to let in more light, concrete slabs to store thermal energy, and a solar vent that looks like a glass chimney, with high-tech solutions such as hundreds of embedded sensors and computer- controlled actuators that automatically open and close the aforementioned larger windows to maintain the optimal internal temperature. Manual operation is also available for those times when individual comfort levels don’t fall within computer-controlled optimum, and a combination of geothermal and solar heating will ensure the house stays warm during even the coldest days of a Cambridge winter.

HouseZero’s sensors aren’t just being used to adjust internal temperature; they’re collecting millions of points of data on the building’s performance daily, which will be used to analyze the effectiveness of its energy-saving features. The valuable data collected by HouseZero will inform “further research that demystifies building behavior,” said CGBC director Ali Malkawi.

Because the building is located in the Mid-Cambridge Conservation District, the designers were limited in how they could impact the exterior of the building. This limitation ultimately benefits the project, not only by making the design more innately interesting, but also because it invites people to imagine how they could transform their own home into an energy-efficient version of itself. Like Coke Zero, which promises the same great taste with zero sugar, HouseZero promises the same great place, with zero energy. While average homeowners probably aren’t going to add hundreds of sensors and a basement supercomputer to their 1923 Sears Roebuck mail-order bungalow anytime soon, they might consider adding on some larger thermal windows and maybe even some custom-designed sunscreens if they’re feeling inspired. As the CGBC aims to prove, these changes are good for the pocketbook and the environment.

HouseZero is about challenging building conventions and finding new solutions to old problems. In time, the research collected by this smart house may help us building smarter towns and smarter cities across the country.

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Off With His Head

DS+R and Rockwell Group's The Shed opens its massive guillotine doors
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Opened in April 2019, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s (DS+R) and Rockwell Group's The Shed is an eight-level, 200,000-square-foot art center located on the southern, 30th Street flank of Hudson Yards. The project has received acclaim for its operable features, notably its gliding ETFE-clad shell and multi-ton doors.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cimolai S.p.A BGT Bischoff Glastechnik AG Bator Industries
  • Architect Diller Scofidio + Renfro (Lead Architect) Rockwell Group (Collaborating Architect)
  • Main Contractor Sciame
  • Facade Installer Cimolai S.p.A Cimolai Technology CS Facades
  • Facade Consultant Thornton Tomasetti
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion April 2019
  • System Kinetic lifting system
  • Products Custom steel frame and aluminum glass panels
The large operable doors, dubbed “guillotine doors,” are located on the north and east elevations of the structure. When lifted, they allow the central performance space, or the McCourt, to effectively function as an open-air pavilion. The structural steel for the doors was fabricated with predrilled mounting for the glass facade and was assembled on site with kinetic components that facilitate proper guidance and alignment. Coordinating with kinetics contractors and fabricators proved a challenging aspect of the project. “Typically, kinetics contractors are quite independent of other construction elements,” said Charles Berman, associate principal of DS+R. “We had the opportunity to work with these trades in early engagement, design-build processes which ultimately led to the best path to success.” Along the north elevation, the door measures 25 feet wide and 32 feet tall, while along the east it is 33 feet wide and 32 feet tall. Each door weighs approximately 30 tons and is lifted by a pair of electric drum winches that pull braided stainless steel wired cables through a series of roller bearings. The system is also integrated with brakes and lockout assemblies to allow for variegated opening heights. In total, raising the doors to their maximum height of 32 feet takes nearly two and a half minutes. The Shed adjoins DS+R and the Rockwell Groups adjacent 15 Hudson Yards along a seam of polished steelwork. Many of the mechanical components of the performance space are embedded within the podium of the tower, ventilated by parametrically designed glass-and-louver modules.
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Living on a Green

New York State to go carbon neutral by 2050
The New York State legistlature has passed a wide-sweeping climate mobilization bill, that, if signed by Governor Cuomo as expected, would mandate that New York State go totally carbon-neutral by 2050. Senate Bill S6599, or the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CCPA), has been kicking around the legislature in one form or another for the last three years and has been cited as a precursor to the Green New Deal being proposed on the national stage. After a progressive sweep of the State Senate last year in the general election, the stage was set to pass the wide-ranging bill, which had been held up by Republicans up to that point. The ultimate goal is to create a net-zero, circular economy powered by renewable energy. S6599 requires that the state reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 85 percent of the level it was at in 1990, and to offset the remaining 15 percent through planting trees and wetland restoration. In 2030, the entire state will be required to source a minimum of 70 percent renewable energy and move up to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. While that may seem like an ambitious target, New York State already sources 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power generation. According to the New York Times, the state is preparing to build more offshore wind farms and rooftop solar panels and will ramp up its battery capacity for cloudy and windless days. However, just generating clean electricity won’t be enough. About a quarter of emissions in the state come from buildings, which rely on natural gas and heating oil for heating and cooling, and automobile emissions will still need to be slashed as cars and trucks are converted to run on electricity. Hundreds of millions of dollars will also be doled out for remediation in areas disproportionately impacted by industrial manufacturing. While New York City’s own “Green New Deal” initiative will regulate the construction of new buildings to bring them in line with tighter emissions requirements, the CCPA will need to mobilize thousands of new workers to weatherproof and retrofit every type of building to run on clean electricity. No cost estimate has been given so far, and critics have claimed that the final version of the CCPA was watered down by the governor’s office to exclude important labor provisions. The final S6599 takes aspects of an earlier Climate and Community Protection Act but has eliminated job training initiatives in low-income, climate-vulnerable neighborhoods. Additionally, funding the retraining of workers in fossil fuel industries was cut, as were fair wage provisions for workers in the renewable energy sector. The actual nitty-gritty details on how the CCPA will be implemented will be left to a future 22-person “climate action council” to decide. The council will be made up of experts and elected state officials with knowledge on everything from renewable energy, construction, health, labor, and ecology, and will be further supported by working groups with specialized knowledge.
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Dream Space

MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY creates cloud-like pavilion in Charlotte
At the Valerie C. Woodard Center, a community resource center in Charlotte, North Carolina, a new pavilion seems to rise right out of the earth. Called Pillars of Dreams, the continuous 26-foot-tall cloud-like structure is the creation of MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY, which is known for its complex, computationally-designed structures made of interlocking linear panels or "stripes." In Pillars of Dreams, as with other of the firm's projects, these stripes function not as just exterior and interior walls, but as the structure itself. “The skin of the project is everything—it’s your envelope, your experience, and foremost your structure,” explained Marc Fornes. “All projects we do are creating structure through geometry—self-supported structures.” Pillars of Dream is constructed with stripes of ultra-thin aluminum sheets, laser-cut into “labyrinthine” bands of 3-millimeter, two-layer stripes. “It’s actually a giant 3D puzzle," Fornes said. The design process for Pillars of Dreams represents a continuation and an evolution of more than 15 years of practice, which was inspired originally as a reaction to the triangle-driven geometries used in the 1990s and 2000s to develop complex architectural forms. This approach, which mirrored the polygon meshes of some digital models, resulted in a huge number of panels that take a great amount of time to assemble. The goal of working with the stripes is to speed up construction and have fewer elements to work with.  Pillars of Dreams was created to inspire visitors to “carry on a sort of dreaming, escapism.” It operates at a variety of scales—appearing one way to someone driving by, another as it’s approached, and then surprises visitors by allowing them to enter its interior, the colored gradient that is created by different shades and shapes inside and out evolving as one gets closer. It is, according to Fornes, “a universe curved in all directions.”
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ShipShape & Urbane Fashion

Yabu Pushelberg infuses Jean Georges restaurant with seafaring motif
Jean Georges's latest venture The Fulton was designed by top New York design duo Yabu Pushelberg to evoke the history of the city’s seaport. Located at Pier 17, the new restaurant is adorned in hand-painted murals by En Viu that illustrate a whimsical undersea journey. This theme is carried through a refined use of plush sea-foam green banquettes and U-shaped quartz countertops. The overall scheme, evident throughout the two-story restaurant, veers in the opposite direction of what could easily become kitsch, especially when dealing with nautical treatments. Rather, the design of The Fulton demonstrates a mastery of elegant and restrained interpretation. Dock-floor patterns, wood paneling, and asymmetrical lighting play on the buoyancy of the waterline outside as indoor and outdoor seating provide unobstructed views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.