Search results for "Carpenter Center"

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Star Stuff

HOK designs home for interdisciplinary physical science research
Three of the University of Chicago’s Physical Sciences schools have a new home. The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, the Institute for Molecular Engineering, and the Dean’s Office of Physical Sciences all moved into the new Eckhardt Research Center earlier this year. Designed by HOK, the new center is specifically planned to encourage interdisciplinary relationships between the different, yet related, fields in the building. Large conference facilities, breakout spaces, and purpose designed collaboration spaces provide formal and informal meeting areas. Each floor was envisioned as a neighborhood with fluid movement through light-filled hallways. The new building is anticipated to receive LEED Silver certification. The project is designed to reduce water use by 40 percent of water use and 30 percent of energy use of a similar size building. Five of the buildings seven floors rise above grade with transparent glass facades. Under consultation from James Carpenter Design Associates each face for the building is calibrated to the surrounding conditions. The upper floors of the building are set up for a variety of lab types from optics to chemistry. The two levels below grade are filled with highly technical spaces needed for advanced research (the video above gives an in-depth look at these facilities). Some of the underground laboratories are isolated from vibration and electromagnetic interference. The 277,000-square-foot building is the first new building for astronomy in well over 100 years. It is also the first time that the Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME) has been housed in one building. The IME will be taking advantage of the buildings 11,000 square feet of clean room space. Everyone in the building will be able to utilize the rooftop terrace with views of Chicago's skyline.
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Skins, Deep

Glass breaks, shines, and shares spotlight at Facades+
The 18th conference in the Facades+ series was presented by The Architect's Newspaper (AN) at Metropolitan West on April 21. With YKK AP as 2016 conference chair, a record-breaking attendance of over 500 design professionals, 60 other sponsoring organizations, and additional workshops held at New York Law School on April 22, Facades+ explored the potentials of new materials, fabrication processes, and design strategies on scales from single windows to urban districts. Facades+, a mobile event offered several times a year since 2012 (hitting seven U.S. cities during 2016), offers regular updates on high-performance enclosures. Contemporary technologies and materials, participants noted, allow increasing control of light and heat as well as expanding design options; at the same time, specialists argued for tempering expectations about parametric design and renewable power generation. “Glass is really the material of the 21st century,” asserted morning keynote speaker and 2016 Jane Drew Prize winner Odile Decq, discussing innovative combinations of laminated glass with external sunscreens, embedded textiles, and other elements. Decq led the audience through a series of projects employing transparency, color, and stylistic contrasts, including the Banque Popular de l’Ouest in Rennes (with Peter Rice), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, the Garnier Opera House restaurant in Paris, and the Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark Museum in Nanjing. Architecture can look to the auto industry, she added, for advances in safety, self-cleaning, and energy management that are adaptable to buildings. In contrast, rising energy concerns mean that “glass is no longer king,” said Buro Happold's Jonathan Sakula; it is part of a broader material repertoire. Stringent codes often make triple glazing difficult to avoid, he noted, despite disadvantages in weight, acoustics, and cost. Responding to an audience question about curtain walls as media for power generation, NY conference co-chair KPF's Shawn Duffy suggested that building-integrated photovoltaics are not yet realizing their potential. Among featured buildings with concrete or masonry façades, standouts included DDG's 12 Warren Street condo clad in Catskill bluestone, discussed by Peter Guthrie, and S9 Architects' 205 Water Street, a gritty neo-brutalist grid of board-formed concrete and exposed steel where, in engineer Stephen DeSimone's pithy phrase, “the structure is the façade.” Technical briefings covered distinctions between fire-resistive and fire-protective glazing (Tim Nass of Saftifirst), woven-metal shading (Tom Powley of GKD-USA), and a dramatic breakage test by Kuraray's Mark Jacobson comparing polyvinyl butyral and SentryGlas ionoplast interlayers (hammer blows to the edge shattered both panes, but only the latter resisted crumpling). YKK's Bang Ting Tan described a top-down curtain-wall retrofitting method that outperforms conventional procedures in safety, weathertightness, and work-cycle efficiency. Tension between design ideals and constraints of economics, zoning, context, and client input was a recurrent theme. In a panel on Related's 17-million-square-foot Hudson Yards, William Pedersen commented that “the ability to achieve structural purity in a speculative office building is almost impossible” because dimensional requirements guide formal gestures. Yet the Yards hardly shortchange aesthetics: KPF's chamfered-cornered north and south towers will “perform a choreographed dance” near the High Line and the ETFE cushions of the Culture Shed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro / Rockwell Group, and Tower D by the latter team plus Ismael Leyva Architects will morph from a rectangular base to a quatrefoil as it rises. Neil Thelen (Thelen Design Group) hailed the subtleties in this tower's residential entrance of CNC-milled stone and the curtain-wall panels' complex geometries. Another high point was Thomas Phifer's afternoon keynote presenting designs from the Salt Lake City U.S. courthouse to the Corning Museum of Glass, augmented by a Q&A with AN's Matt Shaw considering local variations in light quality. “The light is the one thing that always surprises you when you build,” noted Phifer. Enclos's Mic Patterson provided a sobering note in the concluding panel on digital fabrication. Despite impressive recent projects—Hoeweler Yoon's Sean Collier Memorial of milled granite, James Carpenter's Fulton Center Sky Reflector-Net, and Kreysler & Associates/Enclos's fiber-reinforced plastic rainscreens for Snøhetta's San Francisco Museum of Modern Art—the gap between “those buzzwords we have in our industry” and seamy real-world transitions between programs or contractors can be alarming. “The obvious trend is accelerating complexity of the building skin.... How much complexity is sustainable?” Patterson asked. “All you have to do is visit a university architecture program: kids go nuts with Rhino, but nobody's talking craftsmanship.” The precise woodwork in Kahn's Escherick House, he added, “screams, 'Digitize this, sucker!'”—a challenge for everyone to take home.
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The organization turning unused Chicago buildings into aquaponic fish farms
On Chicago’s far South Side, tucked into a postindustrial strip of Cottage Grove Avenue that hugs the Metra tracks, Sweet Water Foundation is farming fish in a former shoe warehouse. The story of urban farming as a tool for urban development is, perhaps unfortunately, cliché at this point. Emmanuel Pratt, Sweet Water's cofounder and executive director, would know: He came up under Will Allen, a MacArthur “genius” grantee and founder of Growing Power. Allen practically wrote the story and developed a much-lauded and effective framework for using farming as a tool for community and economic development. Like Growing Power, Sweet Water has operations in Chicago and Milwaukee that serve as community hubs, education centers for school groups, and employers for hundreds of youth. However, Pratt’s background in architecture and planning pushed him to take a different approach. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell and studied under Mark Wigley as a doctoral candidate in Columbia University’s Urban Planning program. He can weave a conversation seamlessly from the biology of farming and the science of aquaponics to the architecture of space and design. Pratt decided to form Sweet Water in 2011, because he saw farming as just one tool in the box of neighborhood revitalization. The organization’s “blight-to-life” approach uses the biological regenerative principles of nature to, in Pratt’s words, “invent new forms of building typologies.” “It’s all about programming and reprogramming. Space is the crux, and programming is the vehicle,” said Pratt. He describes the Aquaponics Innovation Center at the University of Wisconsin’s Stevens Point as a “tinkering shop.” Along with the 950-gallon tilapia tanks that cycle water to the vegetable beds and back, there is a full-scale wood shop run by a master carpenter, where farming infrastructure is built and participants learn design-build techniques using hand drawing, Rhino, and SketchUp. “It’s a playground. A place for imagination in a space of lost labor production, in an era of hypercapitalism,” said Pratt. Along with the Aquaponics Innovation Center and a similar operation in Milwaukee, Sweet Water owns a single-family house that sits alone on two acres of land in Englewood. Built on the site of a former youth correctional school during the housing boom, the house went into foreclosure during the recession. Now called the Think-Do House, Sweet Water converted the surrounding land into a working farm that feeds 200 people a week at peak growing season. The house has become a community center with workshops, classrooms, and a functioning kitchen. There is a view of the Willis Tower through the kitchen window. “The aesthetics and conditions of the built environment play a major role in a cultural otherness that is reinforced by patterns of development in the city,” said Pratt. “Neighborhoods like Englewood have a strong housing stock from the last 100 years. Tearing down buildings is not just erasure of culture and history, it’s also a matter of material and soil waste.” Sweet Water sees buildings as part of the ecological system of a neighborhood. “We look at the relationship between water, light, soil, plants, buildings, and culture as a closed circuit,” said Pratt. A combination of geography, demography, and work that straddles the intersection of urban development, architecture, and community beg comparisons to flashier examples of South Side redevelopment, such as Theaster Gates’s top-down, development-as-conceptual-art project or Amanda Williams’s building-as-beacon Colored Project. However, Pratt said that Sweet Water’s bottom-up, asset-based relationship approach looks at revitalization as “not just about the economy of a neighborhood, but about the ecosystem as well.” It may not be as sexy, but it’s working. And Sweet Water’s footprint is growing. Directly across the alley from the Think-Do House sits the historic Raber House, a landmarked building owned by the city. Pratt told AN that Sweet Water is currently in talks with Ross Barney Architects, Latent Design, DMK Restaurants, and the Illinois Institute of Technology’s architecture department to recover the property for the neighborhood’s use. “Building neighborhoods and the business of development are at odds,” said Pratt. “Architecture has the power to negotiate that, but there is a race for architects to catch up to their role.”

Jennifer Carpenter

New York–based architect Jennifer Carpenter recently teamed up with Lukas Lighting to create a collaborative working environment for digital marketing software company MediaMath at 4 World Trade Center.

The inspiration for the design has a lot to do with the company’s strengths. MediaMath employs a lot of mathematicians who find patterns in seemingly random data. “The lounge ceiling is a sea of hexagonal fixtures, some lit and some unlit, in a pattern that looks random but is in fact calculated,” Carpenter said. “The fixtures run parallel to each other and are organized along two groups of intersecting parallel track lines.”

“The client liked the notion of using different geometric shapes to identify the various collaborative spaces,” she said. Linen was chosen for the shades to create a diffused lighting quality that would produce a calm space for workers to gather and socialize. In the three smaller lounges, a combination of thin rectangular pendants and acoustical panels are hung to distinguish the quieter, more work-oriented spaces using hard-edged geometry.

In terms of working directly with the manufacturer, everyone did his or her part, especially in regard to deadlines. Carpenter remarked that she “provided renderings of the concept early on, but did not have specifications for the materials or how the pieces would come together—Lukas really brought that to the table.”

The most intense parts of the design process included the onsite layout of over 80 fixtures. Carpenter and the electricians spent a sizeable amount of time drawing a full-size template on the floor using chalk and butcher paper. Afterward, they used lasers to mark attachment points onto the ceiling, and install (which involved some tricky conduit work). Additionally, the schedule for the project combined with the manufacturing process didn’t allow for extensive prototyping. The shades required laminating all of the custom linen fabric at once to ensure consistency, and time didn’t allow for a mockup installation.

There is quite a bit on the horizon for Carpenter in 2016, including hospitality projects, a series of restaurants for fast casual company Honeygrow, and a new flagship store for menswear brand Ubiq. She will also continue to work with MediaMath on their global offices.

The employee lounge at the MediaMath offices at 4 World Trade Center.

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Wasserman Projects holds panel discussion on the future of Detroit architecture
As a part of Detroit's Wasserman Projects exhibition, Desire Bouncing, a panel discussion addressed the future of architecture and art in Detroit. The panel was moderated by Reed Kroloff, principal of Jones Kroloff and former director of Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum. The panel included exhibiting artist Alex Schweder, associate curator at MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design; Sean Anderson, architectural critic; Cynthia DavidsonVenice Biennale U.S. Pavilion co-curator; and Mitch McEwen, assistant professor of Architecture at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan. Detroit is physically changing. Some of its architectural treasures and thousands more of its abandoned homes have been demolished. But now that Detroit is undergoing the slow process of rebuilding, what kind of architecture will replace it? This and other questions were discussed among an expert panel of architects and critics that gathered last Friday at Wasserman Projects, a gallery and event space in a renovated fire truck maintenance facility in Detroit's Eastern Market. Around 50 guests attended the panel discussion, called "Architecture By Any Means Necessary." Kroloff began by asking the panelists, "What are things architecture can do beyond creating a city environment?" "Structures are receptacles for stories, for meanings," said Alex Schweder, an artist who often combines performance and architecture in his work. "The structures in Washington D.C. are a manifestation of stories we tell about our country." "Buildings can perform things we never thought were possible," said Mitch McEwen, a founding partner at A(n) Office and Principal of McEwen Studio. Her example of Le Corbusier's Carpenter Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which changed her conception of architecture, lead to an argument about the interaction between a building and its visitors. Cynthia Davidson described her distaste for Detroit's Renaissance Center, the headquarters of General Motors, often criticized for its confusing walkways and lack of synergy with downtown. "[Designer John] Portman makes you realize how controlling architecture can be," she said. In response to a question about what new architecture in Detroit should do, Schweder advocated architects and city managers give up some control. "Our roles can be collaborative with client and users," he said. "People want voice and agency in the look and use of their city." The discussion took a turn towards political issues and actual implementation of these ideas. Sean Anderson, acknowledged the difficulty Schweder's proposal. "History is often not recognized by developers that come and rebuild cities." During the audience question portion of the panel, someone mentioned that vast areas of Detroit that have no architecture, but "only the ghosts of architecture." He then wondered if this "absence" was worth preserving. "Detroit is a city of single family homes," answered McEwen. She felt that memorializing vacancy was the wrong approach. "I hope the city rebuilds, but with respect for the logic of the single family home." Desire Bouncing will be on show through April 9th at the Wasserman Projects at 3434 Russell Street, #502, Detroit, Michigan 48207.
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Prometheus Unfounded
Courtesy Thames & Hudson

Open Source Architecture
by Carlo Ratti with Matthew Claudel
Thames & Hudson, $25

The most strategic pathology of modern architecture is its split personality. While it is the profession that lays claim to perhaps the most basic human need, it long ago traded in the staid certainty of presiding over dwelling in favor of the vitality of an identity crisis. Leon Battista Alberti famously breathed life into the modern architect from the cadaver of the “mere carpenter” that he himself had simultaneously decapitated, destabilizing the discipline by counterpoising thinkers and doers. The resulting tension between the serious business of laying bricks, springing vaults, and putting bread on the table and the cultural popularity contest of authorship and ideas became the strong force that still glues together a volatile and vibrant discipline. To keep the schizophrenic discipline vigorous, this tension must be regularly stoked. Open Source Architecture is a recent fillip.

The Thames and Hudson–published non-book is the elaboration of an eponymous article that Carlo Ratti and a cohort of “adjunct editors” first assembled for Domus in 2011. The text masquerades as an open source experiment itself as a printed “wiki”—one to be thought of “not as a book, but as a debate, or a joke, or a brainstorming session.” The ambition is no less than to dump the “top-down, comprehensive design” model of the “Promethean architect” typified by Le Corbusier, the Albertian par excellence, for the “Choral Architect [who] weaves together the creative and harmonic ensemble,” an editorial authority that sits somewhere between top-down and bottom up to orchestrate a networked design process fit for the mechanics and mental theatre of the 21st century. If architecture can now be digitized into data, it goes, then the Molotov cocktail of Creative Commons licensing, crowd funding, and open source sharing fueled by the Internet will become an explosive enough force to recover the participatory ambitions that failed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Albeit cloaked in the drag of collaborative, third person, circumstantial, and equivocal rhetoric, this is a manifesto. Manifestos construct an image of reality into which readers are to be thrown hoping they will stay there and ultimately construct it. Speed is vital; anything to remove friction is permitted. Twisting the facts and bungling history are encouraged. Open Source Architecture plays by the rules of its genre, but while the picture it paints for the future of architecture is clear, its understanding of the open source world it cops from to do so undershoots present reality. For a book published in 2015, it presents an antiquated model, underestimating the present and thereby underselling the future, the capital sin of a manifesto.

A contemporaneous text from outside of architecture by blogger Venkatesh Rao provides a benchmark. Invited by Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm cofounded by the cofounder of the first commercial web browser, Rao spent a year studying the Silicon Valley habits of practice and mind from its epicenter. The study resulted in “Breaking Smart,” a series of essays published freely online that construct an explicit discourse from the largely tacit knowledge embedded in the same new software-driven complex of ownership, sharing, funding, and networking that drives Ratti’s text. The difference is that for Ratti, “the success of software is a direct provocation for architecture’s paradigm shift,” whereas for Rao, architecture is precisely that which cannot participate in the software revolution.

Presenting software as the third “soft technology” after writing and money, Rao’s text diagnoses the effects of its democratization from the military-industrial-academic scale of the latter half of the 20th century to the desktop of most American teenagers, forcing a shift in ethos from the distribution of scarce resources to one that “must be approached with an abundance mindset.” The figure that will “wield disproportionate influence on the emerging future” is the hacker, the new problem-solving archetype that brandishes an iterative, trial-and-error, pragmatist approach that will eclipse the “architect”, which for Rao is the hacker’s idealist, purist, and anachronistic opposite. Whereas Ratti’s formula relies on drawing a homology between architecture and software, Rao’s presents their fundamental incompatibility: the power of software is in-dissociable from its softness and architecture will always be hard.

Ratti’s label for the outmoded dinosaur still practicing “starchitecture” in pursuit of the “Bilbao Effect” to be extinguished by software relies on the two-and-a-half century old idea inscribed in Goethe’s “Prometheus,” the first text to recast the Titan from a cautionary tale of the Renaissance to the exemplary genius for the artist. In the same year, 1772, Goethe wrote an ode praising Erwin, the name of an architect inscribed on the Strasbourg Cathedral that the young writer mistook to be singularly responsible for the towering marvel, a collaborative gothic creation built over generations. Goethe revived Prometheus while making of architecture a frozen and flawed image to fit his imperative. Ratti does the inverse, calcifying the myth to throw forward a new architect over its dead body. But myths can’t be killed, they are trans-historical weapons to be refashioned as needed, and Prometheus has recently risen again. As Rao tells it: “Through the seventies, a tenuous balance of power prevailed between purist architects and pragmatic hackers… As a result of pragmatism prevailing, a nearly ungovernable Promethean fire has been unleashed.” Prometheus has been adopted by the very open source movement Ratti invokes, and precisely, as Rao’s analysis illustrates, by claiming its transcendence of architecture.

This lexical pedantry may seem frivolous, but if the stakes are the very figure of the architect, then Prometheus is well in play. While he was writing the first architecture treatise since Vitruvius, Alberti also penned Momus, a satire featuring an anti-hero explicitly modeled on Prometheus that historians Manfredo Tafuri and Mark Jarzombek have used as a cipher to decode a more complex agenda than canonical history has allowed. While Ratti’s impulse to invoke the Promethean in projecting a new architect in the age of software is well founded, a closer reading of both contemporary techno-culture and architecture history is wanting. As architect and Yale professor Keller Easterling warned in her contribution to the book, “Wiki as encyclopedia is easier than wiki as manifesto.”

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The Brutalism Truth
Supporters of Boston's hulking civic Brutalism say it exemplifies the
Courtesy Monacelli Press

Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston
Mark Pasnik, Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo
The Monacelli Press, $32

Concrete architecture is currently enjoying a revival with young creative types. Social media is buzzing with feeds of concrete buildings from twitterati like @BrutalHouse and @brutalust, tumblr sites like f*ckyeahbrutalism, research blogs like #SOSBrutalism, and the support of Jonathan Meades—the doyenne of the British architectural avant-garde—who even wrote a two-part television documentary on it last year, Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness.

Heroic is part of this revival, born as a research project in 2008, in response to the call for the demolition and/or sale of Boston City Hall by the city’s then-mayor, Thomas M. Menino. The architectural community curated an exhibition of Boston’s concrete buildings at pinkcomma gallery, which has now been turned into book format thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The middle section of the book, “Buildings,” is still very much in exhibition format, consisting of 25 concrete monstrosities/icons (according to taste) built in Boston between 1960 and 1977. For concrete fanboys and postwar architectural historians like me, this is a great contribution to our trans-Atlantic database. I enjoyed the photographs and occasional construction drawing more than the rather arid factual accompanying text—perhaps it’s best to describe this as an introductory reference rather than a racy blockbuster.


All the key buildings, whether demolished or extant, are here: The Boston City Hall by Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles, the Government Service Center by Paul Rudolph, Harvard’s Carpenter Center by Le Corbusier, and the Aquarium by the Cambridge Seven Associates, alongside other lesser known but equally adventurous works like Mary Otis Stevens and Thomas McNulty’s Lincoln House and Studio, now sadly no longer with us. The story of The Architects’ Corner on Brattle Street was news to me, as was the existence of the Boston Architectural Center—“the first modern building in the United States designed and built exclusively for the professional study of architecture”—constructed predictably and appropriately from the misunderstood material that excites architects and alienates the public in equal measure.


On either side of the exhibition are words: Five essays on concrete and Boston historically situate and introduce the book, and seven abridged interviews with the main protagonists complete it. These are all good reads. Joan Ockman is always insightful, and almost entirely correct in saying that "no other twentieth-century architectural –ism has been such a moving target." However, while it is true that Brutalism as a movement has been appropriated and re-appropriated by architects and critics both for and against it, without even a whisper of Post-Modernism, this quote is uncharacteristically sweeping. Ockman uses the B word to ground Boston’s new concrete architecture in the British context of the 1950s, but we should not simply conflate concrete with Brutalism. In fact, the editors of the book are careful to translate the British bombast of Brutalism into the more optimistic Heroic. Like the strong silent protagonist in a Hollywood movie, concrete can indeed be characterized as heroic, although Stevens complains that the term is “too loaded,” “feeds the critique by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and others,” and is monumental. She prefers the polar opposite term anti-heroic. This is more in line with Alison and Peter Smithsons’ more ethical definition of Brutalism, closely related to the everyday, although the British couple themselves would, I think, aspire to heroism. The Smithsons’ ethical dimension of Brutalism has been largely ignored in favor of Reyner Banham’s more picturesque aesthetic. As Ockman astutely points out, “an image travels faster than an ethos.”


Lizabeth Cohen then narrates the story of the Boston Redevelopment Authority: In 1960, John F. Collins became the mayor of Boston and recruited the rising star of urban renewal, Edward J. Logue. Peter Chermayeff explains that it was “bewilderingly exciting” for young architects to be handed the opportunity to rebuild the world in their image—the real apogee of modern architecture. Working with and still having the confidence of politicians, they cast a “New Boston” out of concrete—the material of heroes and a move away from traditional brick and stone. Concrete represented progress, democratic monumentality, and confidence in the future. Boston City Hall was the jewel in the crown, but many other heroic structures followed, both governmental, and at the famous universities of Harvard and MIT, where many of the architects trained or taught. These links were crucial, and the roll call of architects is relatively tight—many, like Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, or Sert, Jackson and Associates, or The Architects’ Collaborative, were handed repeat commissions. Indeed, it was claimed that during this period in Boston, “These aggressive concrete buildings are sufficiently plentiful to be considered a local vernacular.”

The interviews of the third section offer a rare and welcome reflection on the period—real “memoirs of a survivor” and often different to historians’ tidy narratives. Henry Cobb, a partner with I.M.Pei, is damning of his own Harbor Towers, for example, and rejects the Brutalist tag. And Tician Papachristou of Marcel Breuer’s office, talks frankly of the “burden” that concrete became. In the late 1970s concrete fell out of fashion with magazines and the general public, and became too expensive and risky compared to steel. And as modernism waned, people’s interest in heroism waned too, and architecture went to sleep… until woken by an MIT postgraduate and his mates who turned the material into a book.

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New facade peels away from building, and comes with interactive mobile app to boot
A digitally readable facade will grace the southeast corner of a building at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD U). Designed by Bortolotto, the “intricately perforated and technologically responsive” scrim will wrap around the former main office building of the campus, “pulling gently away” like a partially unwrapped gift to reveal student work inside and make it visible from the street. Meanwhile, the 16,297-square-foot building itself, dubbed the Rosalie Sharp Pavilion, will be converted into a multi-use work and exhibition space for students featuring studios and interactive meeting and event facilities. The minutely detailed lattice is the culmination of mapping data of artistic institutions in the local area—including galleries, studios, and art stores. The links between them and to the college are designed to emphasize OCAD U as a cross-disciplinary institution at the nexus of these relationships. Aluminum panels mounted on a metal subframe will front the building, held in place by structural steel outriggers. The perforated pattern will be applied by water-jet cutting to render a purposely non-uniform look so that information can be embedded in different parts of the design. Bortolotto is collaborating with OCAD’s Digital Media Research Lab to create a complementary mobile app through which the facade’s interactive features will be mediated and experienced. Ultimately, passersby can photograph sections of the facade and receive associated digital information through the mobile app. “We’re proud of this exciting solution that brings together technology and design to redefine the corner and enable the university to communicate with the community in a new way,” said Bortolotto president, Tania Bortolotto. The ‘peel-away’ facade is a gesture to Frank Gehry’s Art Gallery of Ontario and Will Alsop’s Sharp Center for Design at OCAD U.
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This enormous collection of towers in Mecca will become the world's largest hotel in 2017
Lucrative gains from annual religious pilgrimage has the Saudi Ministry of Finance clamoring to build the world’s largest hotel in the desert of Mecca, featuring 10,000 guest rooms, four helipads, and 12 tightly clustered towers on a 10-story plinth. Crowned at its summit by one of the largest domes in the world, the $3.6 billion mega-hotel has five off-limits floors earmarked for Saudi royalty, 70 restaurants, and an entire multi-function commercial space at its base for a shopping mall, food courts, a bus station, conference center and a lavishly appointed ballroom. Construction conglomerate Dar Al-Handasah designed the mammoth edifice to model a “traditional desert fortress,” sporting flourishes such as fluted pink pilasters framing arched blue-mirrored windows. The two towers within the dome will rise up 45 storeys above the Mecca desert, while two more towers will attain 35 floors, with the remaining eight towers at 30 storeys tall. London-based interior design firm Areen Hospitality has signed on to appoint the interior spaces in the palatial luxury typical of the region. While deep pockets are an unspoken mandate, guests can choose between four and five-star luxury accommodations. The hotel occupies a 646,000-square-foot site in the Manafi district, and is less than one mile south of the Grand Mosque, thronged by two million pilgrims per year and currently undergoing a $61 billion expansion to accommodate seven million worshippers by 2040. The world’s largest hotel by number of hotel rooms, soon to be dwarfed by the Abraj Kudai, is the MGM Grand Las Vegas at 6,198 guestrooms. The gargantuan construction, opening in 2017, is the latest in a spate of residential and commercial developments galvanized by rising tourism revenue, currently raking in more than $9.2 billion annually. An example is the Jabal Omar development along the western edge of Mecca, which will accommodate nearly 100,000 people in 26 luxury hotels, as well as a six-story prayer hall. “The city is turning into Meca-hattan” Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told The Guardian. “Everything has been swept away to make way for the incessant march of luxury hotels, which are destroying the sanctity of the place and pricing normal pilgrims out.”
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Moving Lights
Courtesy Transbay Joint Powers Authority

Transbay Center

San Francisco, California
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects / Auerbach Glasow French

Pelli Clarke Pelli’s $1.89 billion Transbay Center in San Francisco, set to open in 2017, promises to catalyze the redevelopment of its downtown neighborhood, centralize the Bay Area’s vast transportation network, and serve more than 100,000 rail, subway, and bus passengers a day.

San Francisco–based Auerbach Glasow French (AGF) designed the lighting scheme for the four-block-long project. The goal was to accentuate the architecture and make the glassy structure glow from within. “The building wants to feel like it’s filled with light,” said AGF principal Larry French. Achieving this effect came with its challenges. One, the project is aiming to be one of the most energy efficient transit structures in the country, so daylighting had to be a large component of the design. Two, towers surround the site, casting long shadows. In answer, the design team developed an inventive method to pull in as much natural light as possible while using the most efficient fixtures available.


The centerpiece of the 1.5 million-square-foot, five-level project is the Light Column, a massive steel structure that pierces the building’s multi-story Great Hall. The column is uplit and downlit by powerful fluorescent spotlights mounted on its frame. Similar lighting is attached to the building’s exterior columns and beams. Thus far LEDs are not powerful enough to fill the hall’s vast volume, said French, but that may change as technology advances, so the fluorescents may be switched for LEDs before construction starts. “Trying to keep the technology current is very difficult because of the very long lead times,” said French. The team began working on Transbay eight years ago, and the first construction documents were completed four years ago.

Most of the building’s vertical surfaces are washed with LED fixtures, emphasizing their planes and bouncing light out of the building. LEDs also line the railings of the escalators and stairs, and are present in gaps between areas with lower ceilings, such as in the bus deck below the rooftop park. French chose moderation over excess when it came to distributing the fixtures. “We tried not to have too much going on. A building can get busy very quickly,” he said.


During the day, the artificial light supplements the natural illumination enabled by the design. Glass curtain walls on all four sides of the building are covered with perforated metal “awnings” that allow dappled light to filter inside in geometric patterns.

Natural light flows in from above through three elliptical skylights, with ceramic fritting to limit heat and maximize privacy. The two smaller skylights measure about 65 feet by 40 feet, while the largest, hovering over the Light Column, measures 85 feet by 65 feet. Daylight also enters through a translucent and multi-layered 150-foot-long glass floor, which is part of the center’s 5.4-acre rooftop park. The Great Hall has its own glass floor that admits light into the center’s lower levels. It is a similar system to the rooftop, but measures about 40 feet in diameter.

Sunlight is balanced during the day with strategically placed fixtures, which were calibrated through extensive lighting studies. “You don’t want to bring in too much natural light and have dark contrast areas,” explained Heather Kim, a senior associate at Pelli Clarke Pelli.


The combination of natural and artificial light is punctuated by “Parallel Luminous Fields,” a light sculpture designed by James Carpenter for Shaw Alley, a covered pedestrian passage leading to the center’s main entrance. The piece consists of 54 illuminated pairs of cast acrylic resin glass pavers set into the wave pattern of the ceiling and illuminated benches set into the pre-cast concrete floor. These two planes of light will create a sense of movement leading people into the center.

This varied combination of light sources is meant to aid with wayfinding and make users feel as comfortable as possible. But it doesn’t hurt that it adds a little “magic,” as French put it. “It’s exciting. The building is really going to be quite striking,” he said.

Sam Lubell is AN’s West Editor.

Courtesy SGA / IBI Group / Alsop Architects

Pioneer Village Station

Toronto, Canada
Alsop Architects, SGA / IBI Group, Realities United

When The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) opens six new stations along its Toronto York-Spadina Subway Extension, subway riders in Canada’s biggest city will not only be connected to an extra 5.3 miles of track. Thanks to an installation that doubles as platform lighting and a work of art, riders at the Pioneer Village Station will also gain a glimpse into the personalities of their fellow train riders.

Working from 3D models developed by station designers Alsop Architects and SGA/IBI Group Architects, Berlin-based Realities United created a station-specific art installation that allows visitors to broadcast a written message on an LED scroll displayed above the train platform. Dubbed LightSpell, the piece is composed of 40 LED chandeliers, organized into a row of 16-segments capable of displaying letters, numbers, and special characters.

According to the artists’ project description, “LightSpell is an experiment in public interaction and will entail various aspects of the theme of the freedom of the individual versus the interest of the larger group.” The intent is to anonymously display what riders type into the station’s five message kiosks, without filtering or oversight from TTC. That is still up for discussion, said Realities United’s Jan Edler, but he hopes “to come to a fruitful agreement with the stakeholders.”

The station’s centerpiece is an art installation called LightSpell designed with Berlin-based Realities United. It comprises 40 LED chandeliers in a row of 16 segments that display uncensored messages typed by riders on a public keyboard.


“It is a democratic installation: Any wording—however rude, stupid, offensive—will inevitably also be the light source serving the demands of the community of other waiting people,” continues the project description. “We do believe that the interest to use the system in a stupid way will diminish once the students notice that there is NO censorship and hope that it will rather be used creatively,” Edler told AN by email.

The station sits at the intersection of Steeles Avenue and Northwest Gate on the edge of York University’s campus. Lighting is an integral part of the station’s design. “It’s a true hybrid between an art installation and function,” said Bruce Han, an architect with IBI Group.


While the illuminated messages of LightSpell comprise the bulk of the lighting along the subterranean platform, a conical opening in the roof at the platform’s center conveys natural light from above. Elsewhere in the station, the design team worked to include natural light wherever possible. Large triangular windows rise from ground level in the station entrance, filling the circular space with daylight. Metal poles topped with fluorescent fixtures lead visitors into the station, whose jellybean-shaped volume connotes playfulness, said Han.

When completed in fall 2016, the Spadina extension will be the first TTC rail line to span the city limits of Toronto. Pioneer Village Station includes a 1,900-space parking lot as an accommodation to suburban commuters in the adjacent city of Vaughan.


“We wanted to create a new public focal point that would encourage future development as well,” said Han. A swooping, cantilevered canopy shelters a regional bus terminal for York Regional Transit. Together with the train station entrance, the transit hub’s entrances serve as sculptural focal points, bisecting the parking lot.

Taking inspiration from rock-climbing walls, the architects wrapped the weathering steel-clad building with triangular planes and knobby shapes. Inside, above the escalator and stairs leading down to the platform, IBI added a light installation of its own: a cylindrical volume of perforated steel that transmits the glow of tubular LEDs inside through a peppering of small holes at its base.

Pioneer Village Station is not the only station along the York-Spadina extension that has been designed with an integrated art installation. TTC hired artists to enliven all six new terminals along the route, using funds from the “one percent” program it bakes into public construction costs. Whatever opinions subway riders have about the program or the new station’s design surely will not go unheard—just keep an eye on the LightSpell scroll once it is up and running.

Chris Bentley is AN’s Midwest Editor

These renderings depict the concept proposal to light the IRT crossing (top) and the 12th Avenue Viaduct (above).
L’observatoire International

125th Street Corridor

New York City
Mathews Nielsen
L’Observatoire International

West 125th Street in Manhattan between Broadway and the Hudson River has long been a no-man’s land of broken sidewalks and shuttered storefronts, a scar of urban blight in a neighborhood full of them. But it won’t be for much longer. In 2004, the New York City Economic Development Corporation hired New York City–based landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen to redesign the corridor as part of its West Harlem Master Plan. The $14.5 million street enhancement project was developed to improve access to the revitalized West Harlem Piers Park, which runs along the Hudson River between St. Claire Place and West 135th Street, while at the same time preparing the ground for the future development of Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus expansion. In March 2014, a decade after the design was commissioned, construction got started. By the end of 2016, this one-time blasted heath should be ready for the safe passage of college students and condo-dwelling urban professionals.

Mathews Nielsen’s design includes pavers and plantings to make the corridor a more pleasant place to be.
Courtesy Mathews Nielsen

Mathews Nielsen’s design works within the guidelines of New York’s Complete Streets initiative to make the thoroughfare accommodating to people on-foot, cycling, and driving. Signaled crossings and pedestrian refuges aim to make the corridor safer for all, while trees and other plantings soften the urban environment’s hard edge. At the west end of 125th Street there is an intermodal plaza with a bus turnaround and a link to a ferry landing in the Hudson.

As it has done in many of its urban revitalization projects, Mathews Nielsen used existing infrastructure in the area to add flavor to its design. Old rails still imbedded in the pavement from the Third Avenue Rail System, for example, are being preserved as historic markers of sorts. More significantly, the design is making use of two steel arch structures that flank the site—one supporting the elevated tracks of the IRT subway on Broadway and the other the raised section of River Side Drive known as the 12th Avenue Viaduct. “There are these two incredible bookends of the 1 Train structure and the 12th Avenue Viaduct,” said Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen. “We thought about those as a way to create a sequence as one moves toward the water.”

The design team mocked up the lighting scheme on the IRT station to test its effectiveness and to make sure glare did not interfere with the operation of the subway or cause light polution that might bother the neighbors. The blue light combines well with the yellow street light and is a saturated color that works well with LED technology.
L’observatoire International

To accentuate this sequence at night, these structures are being illuminated with lighting schemes designed by New York City–based L’Observatoire International. The lighting approach was different for each structure due to their distinct formal qualities as well as the peculiarities of the agencies that maintain them. The MTA, for example, would not allow the design team to attach light fixtures to the IRT structure, so the fixtures are being mounted on U-shaped poles that thread through the subway platform’s arch. NYCDOT, which maintains the 12th Avenue Viaduct, had no issues with the attachment of light fixtures. Here the designers are nestling the fixtures in the hips of the arches, where they uplight the cathedral-like spans.

While both structures are lit with white light, here again there is a variation. The designers chose warm, 3000K white light for the MTA bridge, which is painted beige, produced by four 315W metal halide fixtures with narrow four-degree beam spreads to cut down on glare and light pollution. The subway crossing also features blue light that comes on when a train is approaching the station, produced by eight 28W LED fixtures with six-degree beam spreads.

The team chose cooler 4000K white light for the viaduct, which is painted gray, produced by eight 150W metal halide fixtures. Under the current project scope, the lighting scheme will only be applied where the viaduct crosses 125th Street, but it is modular and could be rolled out along the entire length of the bridge, a proposal that the design team has put forth to the local business improvement district, in case it feels like funding it.

Aaron Seward is AN’s Executive Editor.

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Carpenters Union builds the nation's largest training complex in Las Vegas
Every architect has horror stories about construction quality on job sites. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) union wants to prevent that, investing $250 million for a training center in Las Vegas to teach and certify their workers. The group has been building the International Training Center, just outside McCarran Airport, over the past several years, and recently completed phase five of the complex, bringing its total size to almost 1 million square feet. The facility features more than 70 classrooms, its own dorms (with 300 guest rooms), and training shops fitted with facilities like scaffolding mock ups, concrete form making stations, a pile driver pit, flooring stations, glass curtain wall mock ups, turbine pit, a robot zone, and even a tank to practice underwater welding. Third year apprentices from around the country train here for two weeks at a time. They include general carpenters, interior systems carpenters and drywallers, millwrights, floor coverers, millworkers, cabinetmakers, framing and residential carpenters, pile drivers, lathers, scaffolders, roofers, and workers in forest-product and related industries. The UBC sponsors more than 200 training centers across North America (there are about 3,500 full- and part-time instructors associated with the UBC), but this is by far the largest. “Our job is to make sure our members are trained and ready,” said Bill Irwin, executive director of the Carpenters International Training Fund.
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Bridging the Digital-Material Divide
James Carpenter designed the facade of 7 World Trade Center.
David Sundberg / ESTO

The contemporary notion that what is called “research” should be an important component of every architectural practice is one that deserves further interrogation. If we think of research as something done by scholars, academics, and social scientists then what takes place in most architecture offices is most often little more than public relations or simply the instrumental steps in the creation of a design for a building. It is often the case that architecture offices are developing new ideas of building production (like BIM, digital fabrication, 3D printing, etc.) but even these tend to be aimed at specific design projects with clients and therefore not concerned with general professional or goals of the discipline. There is one area however where architects are doing primary research: the development of materials and how they impact design and are themselves changed through creative form making. In issue number seven of the architecture fanzine P.E.A.R. (Paper for Emerging Architectural Research), which comes from a London group of academics, architects, and the Royal Academy of Arts, they call this type of practice “material research” and investigate new models in its evolution. Architects, Adrian Forty argues in his P.E.A.R. essay, have always cared about construction materials, even as he quotes William Morris, who wrote that architects were falsifying their use and meaning—making one thing seem to be another.

This is true, Forty goes on, even if they “make a show of not caring, as Peter Eisenman famously did with his ‘house series.’” In fact, Forty’s concise yet thorough essay makes the point that there is no such thing as a “pure” material—all are the result of mixing human labor with substance “whether naturally-occurring or synthetic.” But his principle point and an important one for contemporary practice is that today digital fabrication has nearly eliminated human labor from the work of processing materials while making infinite variation possible. Architects now, he contends, can more fully concentrate on “what materials are used for—upon the end results.”

The leading edge in architecture ten to 15 years ago were those architects creating primarily in the digital field and staying there, as they were unable to build what they could imagine on the computer. But the students of these mostly academic practitioners have taken their ideas and are now slowly applying them to new and old materials to create a dizzyingly array of spaces, installations, and built forms. Some of these young architects have left the design studio and opened fabrication shops (most with their own CNC milling machines) where, applying the skills they learned in school, they work directly on and with materials. These practices are doing some of the most interesting work in the architectural field. Further, some of these workshops are in fact hybrid studio/machine shops, and thus are able to dig deep into the meaning and use of materials to create new forms and ideas for installation proposals and/or buildings when approached by other architects.

We are, it seems, only at the beginning of this design phenomena and for this reason The Architect’s Newspaper began three years ago its Facades+ conferences where we highlight the leading edge of new research and technological advancement in the field. The material that is most often considered in the Facades+ seminars is glass and its use in curtain walls. In fact, glass, both through industrial and professional research, is perhaps the single most developed material in the building world in the last 20 years, which may explain its ubiquity both in corporate and small scale design in every climatic condition from desert to alpine conditions. The recent Facades+ conference in Los Angeles featured James Carpenter, whose creative glass research, as a consultant to SOM, for the curtain wall of 7 World Trade Center in New York makes him one of the leading practitioners and glass researchers in the field. We will be reporting on Carpenter’s lecture in our next issue, along with other highlights from the conference and beyond.