Search results for "shenzhen"

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Ben Prosky
Stefan Sagmeister designed the poster for the 2008 fall lecture series at GSAPP (left) and the poster designed by 2X4 for the Columbia Building Intelligence Project held in Tokyo in 2010 (right).
Courtesy GSAPP

The fact that schools of architecture repeatedly pull off great events is nothing new. Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous 1951 lecture at Columbia has been meticulously archived; Harvard’s annual Walter Gropius lecture has been given by one of the most established practitioners in any given year since 1961. Nor is it uncommon for schools to deliberately organize provocative conferences as when Yale fostered a real ideological battle in a public forum between Peter Eisenman and Leon Krier in 2002. As recent history has demonstrated, interesting debates and critical experimentation are no longer the purview of agents like the IAUS—established in the 1960s as an alternative to the institutions mentioned previously—which are again returning to university culture. As Rem Koolhaas insists at his academic lectures, architectural ideas have a broad audience beyond captive student audiences conven-iently dwelling in studios adjacent to the university auditorium.

At the same time, I believe that the production of architectural events in universities is more and more of a curatorial act. In addition to the professors and deans traditionally involved, more engaged administrators are not only coordinating and organizing events but also giving input and direction. The need for additional curation is clear, these events are occurring at a sometimes dizzying rate, with a typical week consisting of a Monday night panel discussion on sustainability issues in China, a Wednesday evening architecture lecture by Richard Rogers, a Friday lunchtime debate on urban zoning policy, and a Saturday conference on African cities. Furthermore, the ability and desire of these ambitious events to draw outsiders—practitioners, retirees, artists, policy makers, students from other schools and faculties—has an indelible impact upon the school’s students, faculty and discourse at large. In producing programming, not just in the form of events but also exhibitions, publications, and relevant web content beyond that with an academic link, a school can instigate discussion and inspire collaborations that reach beyond the existing culture of the place.

What does it mean for schools to have such overactive public programs? It seems obvious: to serve the students and faculty and to give them avenues in which to communicate about their work. However, public programs should not simply replicate the school’s agenda but also help to produce it. By creating venues, forums, and mediums, schools can explore what it they are curious about outside the classroom. In turn, ideas that come out of an academic event should influence the school, shape its pedagogy, and sway its discourse. By inviting other interests in and producing friction with diverse ideas, the school can better define how it thinks about itself.

At Columbia GSAPP, where I have directed the events program for the past six years under the direction of dean Mark Wigley, we have strived to create such conditions by blurring the lines where classroom, practice, industry, and professional development can meet, as in the conferences on materials, including glass, concrete, metals, and plastic, chaired by professor Michael Bell.

Of course, it has been a challenge for design schools that have departments in addition to architecture, such as urban planning, urban design, historic preservation, landscape architecture, and real estate development to produce public programs that address the interests and concerns of all included. Architecture departments tend to take a minimum of three years to complete and therefore have the most students. But a well-curated program can facilitate interaction amongst all departments and instigate curiosity about other disciplines, mirroring the cross-disciplinary approach currently favored by the profession. For example, the architecture student who comes to developer Douglas Durst’s talk may begin to understand that convincing his peers in the real estate development program that good design is a good investment may someday lead to a commission—just as listening to Steven Holl discuss housing projects in China might lead a research trip to Shenzhen to examine the existing urban fabric, or a discussion with Amanda Burden about New York’s planNYC might inspire a debate among urban planning and architecture students that could lead to a proposal for a joint design-development studio.

Crafting a communications plan for announcing and informing diverse publics within and beyond the school is a constant challenge. Whereas museums have long-term planning in their DNA, schools have not been traditionally accustomed to organizing themselves this way. Their fluid and experimental nature can throw this process. Attention to mailing lists and email listserves is not often a priority, undermining the programming or outreach ambitions.

Schools tend to be omnivorous when it comes to their visual identities. They have a wonderful way of promiscuously working with a host of graphic designers. Whereas cultural institutions aim for consistent branding, a school can choose a sober design approach for one exhibition, while the same school’s lecture series poster might be outrageously bright. These posters, programs, and postcards are sometimes the only traces remaining of significant events and become somewhat collectible. A well-detailed program for a conference can essentially become the Cliff Notes for the audience or the table of contents for the symposium publication.

The events program that I directed at Columbia was well received but did not go unchallenged. I noticed that event fatigue can set in. Complaints came from professors that there were too many programs on too many nights with not enough time to think in between. Students created their own rogue series advertising that they would invite the people “they choose” rather than the speakers chosen for them, and they sometimes stopped attending even the most compelling school lectures. The effort to produce creative and graphically stimulating communications materials was also met with contentious remarks from faculty and students who felt that the designs were sometimes too confusing or too colorful, while others considered them not bold enough. Then again, alums sometimes write to tell me that they are using past posters as decoration on their office walls!

No matter how ambitious a series is, it cannot satisfy everyone’s interests. An embarrassment of riches and offerings is not a bad problem to have. One can only hope that by offering up such a diversity of ideas that there is always something with which to engage. Sometimes an event on a particular scholarly subject that draws a modest audience of 25 engaged attendees can be just as worthwhile as a lecture by a famous architect filling the auditorium with 300 people.

Having recently been appointed the Assistant Dean of Communications at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, I step into a role with a communications mandate at its core. The position oversees an already creative and experienced team running the departments of events, exhibitions, publications, Harvard Design Magazine, and web content. Under the direction of the Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, the goal is to give more possibilities for interdepartmental collaboration and broader reach and impact.

In a time when museums have dwindling departments of architecture, curatorial positions in architecture are few and far between, and cultural institutions are cutting back on architecture programming, it is more important than ever for schools to take their role seriously as major producers of architectural discourse. To produce material that is accessible within academic walls and also reaches out to the profession not only serves the school, but the entire community.

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Contested Ground
Flowing Gardens by GroundLab, the winning master plan in a competition for the International Horticultural Expo, will open this spring.
Courtesy GroundLab

Landscape architecture continues to experience a professional flowering based on the growing significance of sustainability and ecological issues as they relate to planning the broader built environment. But awareness is also growing among architects that they are no longer kings of the mountain. Gwen Webber scouts the perimeter of a possible turf war in the making.

If Ground Zero were up for grabs today would Michael Van Valkenburgh be a more likely candidate for master planner than Daniel Libeskind? It’s plausible. The recent surge in prestigious commissions going to and being completed by landscape architects has fuelled a fiery discourse over the ether as well as in academic circles as to what this means for the way cities will be made in the future. Traditionally, the architect was the master builder with landscape designers as mere ancillaries. Today that relationship is fast being reversed.

“Traditional roles have flipped,” said architect Stephen Cassell of ARO, who believes landscape architects should have equal footing on design projects because of their specialized training. “A lot of these landscape architecture firms have started to think about green spaces in a synthetic way. How landscape architects analyze a problem is very specific; it is about looking at experience within the city.”

Indeed, commissions that might have been won by architect-led teams just a few years ago are now going to landscape firms. And large-scale urban design competitions are going to landscape-led teams who demonstrate the capacity to design creatively with existing ecologies, such as the redevelopment of Seattle's waterfront by Field Operations, or urban regeneration initiatives like Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which aims to reinvigorate Eero Saarinen's iconic landmark through improved public areas by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA).

 
GroundLab's Deep Ground master plan reenvisions the urban fabric of Longgang Municipality in Shenzen, China (left) and a rendering of an overlook structure for Hunters Point South, New York City designed by Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi (right).
Courtesy groundlab and Arup / Thomas Balsley Associates / Weiss/Manfredi

MVVA is a case in point. In 2007 the landscape architecture practice won a competition (among the other multidisciplinary contenders were Weiss/Manfredi of New York and Stoss of Boston) to develop Toronto's Lower Don Lands, a long-term phased scheme which will reroute the mouth of the Don River to the city's inner harbour, creating flood protection, new neighborhoods, a river-front park system as well as “humanize the existing infrastructure.”

Charles Waldheim, head of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, cites the Lower Don Lands project as exemplary of a decreasing emphasis on disciplinary boundaries and an increasing appreciation for ecological design, “MVVA assembled a very complex, multidisciplinary team,” he said in an interview. “Landscape urbanists have all the pieces.” As interest in ecological design grows, the need for landscape architects to deal with issues that architects aren't trained for also increases. “Landscape urbanism emerged to fill a void because planning and urban design had not provided an alternative,” said Waldheim, who has been a key proponent in bringing landscape urbanism to the fore and expanding the definitions of landscape architecture. According to Waldheim, the emergence of this faction of ecological designers snapping up high-profile projects is not a coincidence but rather the result of cumulative conditions.

In the late 20th century urban design was committed to recreating the 19th century shape of the city, he argues, in order to reinstate environmental and social values, while urban planners withdrew from physical planning to focus on demographics and social science. The perceived primacy of cars and demands for an expanded transport infrastructure in the 20th century pushed cities further out into sprawl and placed automobiles and traffic control at the center of city design. Later, during the 1990s, architects felt there was no option in which designers could be culturally progressive and simultaneously engaged with environmental or social concerns, leaving a dissatisfied subset of designers keen to reconcile the two.

Enter landscape urbanism, a term attributed by many to Waldheim, and certainly propagated by him. In any case, landscape urbanists are being recognized as key choreographers of urban space and they are beginning to subsume many of the roles once held by architects, planners, and urban designers. One such practice is London-based landscape architects GroundLab whose project Deep Ground recently won a competition to master plan a 4.6-square-mile area of Longgang in Shenzhen, China, drawing on urban design, planning, and environmental remediation to make a comprehensive, connected urban scene.

 
James Corner Field Operations' scheme for Seattle's waterfront redevelopment covers nine acres.
Courtesy Waterfront Seattle  [Click to enlarge.]
 

That's not to say that architects will be rendered powerless, but it does mean that they may have to cede total control, shedding the idea of sole authorship and autobiographical building and instead re-cognizing those others with more skill sets relevant to a given project.

Robert Balder, a director of planning and urban design at Gensler, observes that developers still tend to turn to big architecture firms for large-scale projects. But he notes that within many of these firms, landscape architects don’t have an equal place at the table. Balder, who also serves on the Urban Land Institute’s Council for Sustainable Development, predicts that as developers become more knowledgeable about sustainability requirements, cost, and functionality, the expertise of landscape architects will inevitably become more important earlier in the life of projects. “LEED can’t come at the end,” he said. “Landscape architects are often brought in when it’s too late.”

The 21st century is the Era of Ecology, according to James Wines of SITE a long-time proponent of ecologically-driven architecture, who says “the era of monument-building is coming to a close,” and with it ends the architect's pole position. “Architects who want to build a sculpture in the middle of space live in an antiquated world of endless resources,” he said. “Urban agriculture is the way forward. You can turn a place around based on a vegetated environment.”


In Toronto, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) won a competition to reimagine the relationship of the Don River to the city (top). MVVA is also leading a team in the redesign of the park surrounding the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (above).
Courtesy MVVA [Click to enlarge.]
 
 

As designers across the profession are increasingly faced with challenges that don't have a precedent and don’t correspond to traditional disciplinary boundaries, such as rising water levels, post-industrial cityscapes, waste, and a crippled climate, practices are repackaging and restructuring themselves in response. But the prospect of another professional group— particularly landscape architects—ascending to a decision-making role in the built environment still makes some squirm.

In a Wall Street Journal interview earlier this year, British architect Will Alsop accused landscape architecture of institutionalizing public space. And last fall at a New Urbanism symposium in New Orleans, the constant pot-stirrer Andres Duany announced in a provocation that quickly exploded on the blogosphere, “It’s not cool to be an architect. It’s cool to be a landscape architect. That’s the next cool thing.”

Deborah Marton, executive director at Design Trust for Public Space, believes it's a substantive shift rather than a trend. “It is about professional maturity,” said Marton, who believes the hierarchical structure of traditional design practice is redundant. “Each discipline brings something to a project...it should be about which team is working well together and doing the best job of seeing the whole picture.”

For MoMA's 2010 Rising Currents show, nArchitects' New Aqueous City proposed a series of man-made islands (top) and floating piers (above).
Courtesy nArchitects
 

Indeed, the rise of landscape urbanism hasn't escaped public interest with interviews and articles in the national papers as well as on blogs. This kind of attention has propelled it from an academic discussion into a wider discourse, which, says Marton, is important to changing the very structure of design practice and ultimately municipal authority processes as well. Though the change is slow, there are solid examples of it happening. Philadelphia's long-awaited waterfront redesign recently shifted gears as it dropped plans for multi-story blocks and moved away from using a signature project to jump-start the city's master plan. Instead, the massive plan focuses on a string of parks as a stimulus for continued development.

Landscape architect James Corner of Field Operations is fitting his practice to the new mold. And while he had to struggle to get credit from architects on the immensely popular re-imagining of the High Line in New York, he is now leading a $569 million project to reconnect Seattle to Elliott Bay and create nine acres of new public space, a kind of prototypical antidote to the narrow commercialized waterfronts so common to many other U.S. cities. “There is a desperate need for a different kind of professional who is capable of seeing a bigger picture and choreographing a bigger team,” Corner told Metropolis in 2008.

Meanwhile at the GSD, Waldheim's newly appointed staff in the Landscape Architecture department is dedicated to building a trans-disciplinary faculty including ARO architect Cassell, who will be teaching this year alongside Susannah Drake of dlandstudio.

 
ARO and DLANDSTUDIO's proposal for MoMA's Rising Currents exhibition. The project for New York's Waterfront creates a New Urban Ground of marshes and wetlands to protect against storm surges.
Courtesy ARO/DLANDSTUDIO [Click to enlarge.]
 

Cassell and Drake have partnered before at the “Rising Currents” exhibition last year at the Museum of Modern Art. That path-breaking exhibition challenged architects to respond to an environmental catastrophe and called for “soft” infrastructures and ecological design solutions, bringing architects and specialists in ecological design together in close and productive collaborative efforts that attracted the close attention of developers and city officials alike.

For his Rising Currents project, Eric Bunge of nArchitects composed his team of designers with various skill sets including Mathur/da Cunha as water specialist. Like the other collaborative teams that were formed for the exhibition, his suggests that in the future it won’t take a constructed disaster scenario to make architects realize the value of landscape designers.

Bunge said that he still sees landscape architecture and architecture as having different trajectories that need one another at points in the design process. But whether or not they are complete equals on the job, Bunge possibly speaks for many architects today when he said, “It is too early to say.”

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Terence Riley to Head 2011 Shenzhen/Hong Kong Biennale
Terence Riley has been selected to head the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture. After leaving his post as chief curator of architecture and design at MoMA, Riley set out to revamp the Miami Art Museum. Key to his tenure in Miami was a drive to move the museum into a new $100 million building designed by Herzog & de Meuron. But with economic downturn, the project stalled and Riley resigned in October of 2009. The new appointment makes him the first non-Chinese curator to head the five-year-old event. The program, which will be announced next year, focuses on the unique character of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and on young cities in particular. As Shenzhen's extraordinary growth has taken it from a fishing village to a major metropolis in only the past 50 years, it's a natural fit for the event. "The full program is still being developed, but our idea is to create a paradigm that considers the cyclical growth pattern of urban cities such as Shenzhen, where cities create architecture, architecture creates cities, and how the process continues without end," Riley said in a statment. "At a time when sustainability is imperative, the idea of describing an open process that takes into account its own renewal and constant evolution is essential."
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Walking on Air
Work AC has conceived a new, porous infrastructure for Shenzhen.
Courtesy Work AC

Work AC has won a competition to redesign the streetscape, infrastructure, and public image of one of China’s most intriguing thoroughfares: Hua Qiang Bei Road, a retail, fashion, and electronics manufacturing corridor in Shenzhen. Working with Arup, Balmori Associates, and ZhuBO Architecture Studio, the architects have proposed redesigning a one kilometer section of the road by improving the landscaping and completing a below-ground subway link and other infrastructure improvements. Above ground, the project gets more visually exciting, with a series of curved and looped pedestrian crossings that also function as cultural buildings and public amenities.


The project covers a kilometer along Hua Qiang Bei Road, a major retail strip.
 

The area evolved over time from predominantly manufacturing to a mix of retail alongside manufacturing. It is lined with midrise and highrise buildings, many of which have floors of workshops or warehouses. The street is extremely congested with foot and auto traffic, as well as vendors, bicycles, trucks, and buses, according to Dan Wood and Amale Andraos, the principals of Work AC.

The city of Shenzhen controls about 45 feet of the sidewalk, on which they had proposed building a monolithic elevated pedestrian street, which they called the “3-D Street,” as a means of alleviating ground level congestion. In their own proposal, Work AC presented discrete twisting and looped elements inserted into the street, which they call “lanterns.” “We didn’t want to create a series of walls,” Andraos said.

Instead, they proposed a series of elevated crossings with various programs, including a fashion museum, an electronics museum, and an elevated park. “The Chinese pushed for public and cultural space in the lanterns,” Wood said. “The project has become about improving the identity of the street.” Many of these structures will also be linked to pedestrian bridges from individual buildings, providing cut-throughs for deliveries. Below grade, new spaces provide continuous connections between a food court, new library, performance spaces, and four new metro stations.

“I think here we have a phobia of streets in the air,” Andraos said. “In Asia, there are lots of precedents where they work.” The architects aim to make sure the crossings are also an efficient means of navigation. “It’s about as long as it takes to wait for a light,” she said.

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Comment: Viren Brahmbhatt
The Mumbai skyline as seen from the Taj President Hotel.
Timothy Nessam

Like other megacities, the large cities of India are grappling with the conflicting logic of globalization and localization. As new networks of global trade and finance create new opportunities, developer-friendly architecture and planning are appropriating contemporary discourses, and producing urban forms hitherto unknown. Globalization and its influence are thus transforming the city as physical, social, and cultural boundaries are being renegotiated.

On the one hand, India’s booming economy has fueled a euphoric decade of development, embraced by a new generation of architects bent on transforming the traditional dynamics of practice. At the same time, the nation is plagued by a one-size-fits-all architecture created by globetrotting architects and multinational players who are more focused on singular objects and signature buildings. A land of dazzling opportunities and paradoxes; a paradise of manufactured faux cities for the nouveaux riches and a hell for slumdogs: such is the predicament of India.

These thoughts came to mind at the recent conference Emerging Exchanges: New Architectures of India, held at Parsons the New School for Design in New York, and organized jointly by the New School, the India China Institute, and the Architectural League. Unfortunately, the two-day event’s agenda of “exchanges” hardly seemed to touch the complex challenges of contemporary practice in India and was a lost opportunity to engender real dialogue. Not only did this event highlight the major disconnect between academia and architecture, it signaled a cultural blind spot that spells nothing short of hopelessness for millions of sprawl- and slum-dwellers written off by western architects and planners.

With the possible exception of China, no nation other than India stands at such a crossroads in terms of development, diversity, and social divisions. The huge buzz about the country’s economic growth is manifest in the malls, retail complexes, multiplexes, and luxury residential towers sprouting up across the nation, their glass-and-metal facades emblematic of the New India.

Far from taking place under the government radar, this growth has been sanctioned by India’s planning authorities. As long as a plan is produced for bureaucratic formality, officials are more than happy to approve haphazard, large-scale schemes that have no long-term strategies or detailed analyses of their impact. Virtually no consideration is given to the environmental consequences, local economies, or the social and cultural fabric of communities. Displacement through dispersal—of agricultural land, people, businesses, and slum dwellers—is consequently rampant.

Global consumerism has also driven the huge desire of up-and-coming cities to ape the likes of London and Dubai, hence the parade of international-style projects symptomatic of our time, dropped into completely different cultural and social contexts in emerging economies. These desires are fanned by the bureaucrats and urban elites who opt for a “global” architectural language to shape and narrate their national ambition, without regard for local culture and politics.

We’ve seen all this before, notably in China, where cities like Beijing and Shenzhen failed to capitalize on their reinvention as opportunities to define a sustainable model for urbanization. Mumbai and other fast-growing urban centers have taken misguided cues from these artificial cities, effectively conceived as large-scale architecture, producing nothing but postcard urbanism. In such places elite architects create their iconic buildings, while large international firms busily reproduce the old in new attire. Such urban-design and planning strategies, already failed elsewhere, are constantly being reemployed, never more swiftly than with today’s Photoshop urbanism, where renderings are swapped in and out with total disregard for regional concerns.

The current predicament is an opportunity to slow down and rethink our strategies. The architectural profession needs to reposition itself toward engagement, rather than merely export the largely western, 20th-century models and values that have created more of the same everywhere. Economists, sociologists, cultural critics, and others have long recognized the perils of globalization. We would do well to draw upon this body of thought to consider what role, if any, architecture and urban design may play in defining a new kind of urbanism for the 21st century—one that is both socio-economically and environmentally sustainable. If we do not think about rapid urbanization now in light of the global risks of population growth, poverty, and climate crisis, we will face its irreversible aftermath in the immediate future. This is a crisis we can certainly avoid.

Historically, architecture has been at the core of cultural production, and has played a pivotal role in defining cultural space and physical form. However, under globalization, the question of “culture” hangs in the balance: While the flattening of cultural geographies and “globalism” are pushing toward more homogenized world culture, the profession is busy building symbols of global capital in response, instead of investigating architecture as an urban construct—which it inevitably is.

India provides an excellent case study for investigating the city of the coming century, as the largest democracy on earth negotiates urbanization and economic development on a staggering scale. Contemporary architectural practice should focus on the context of regional and national perspectives, as well as local practices. A true global exchange is where international architects and their counterparts in India can learn from each other to find better local solutions to global challenges, and advocate for high standards for the built environment in conjunction with intelligent city governance and management structures.

Our top priorities should include employing appropriate technologies and construction practices to engage the large available skilled and unskilled labor force in India; and devising architecture as infrastructure that integrates and addresses the scarcity of resources, climate change, and other escalating pressures to produce environmentally sustainable architecture and more livable urban environments. The condition of production prompted by transnational exchanges—along with architecture that responds to global consumerism—is not necessarily a bad thing. Nor should it automatically produce insensitive projects. As long as there is some degree of self-assessment, along with a willingness to engage with local vernacular practices and amplify the latent qualities of particular locales, engagement and partnerships could engender more inclusive approaches toward an open-ended architecture capable of sensible change and growth.

The truth is that fantastic challenges lay ahead. Cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmadabad, Kolkata, Surat, and Delhi are some of the most exciting places to design on the planet, because they are at once loved and loathed, messy and modern, chaotic and lyrical, rich and poor, old and new, vigorous and corrupt. Above all, they are naively energetic in their insatiable hunger for growth.

Unlike western cities, Indian cities are rural in spirit, shaped by the slow linking of towns and villages. They have retained their rural character, as well as overlapping hierarchies of public and private spaces where distinctions are easily blurred, and “contamination” an accepted norm generating, altering, and constantly modifying the urban landscape, creating transitory urbanism with not-so-clearly defined boundaries. Every space is a contested territory, ephemeral yet rooted, and perpetually dynamic. In many instances, contamination and messy urbanism of the “informal” are traits closely related to poverty, a lack of resources, and the need for sustenance that have translated into historic patterns stigmatizing Indian cities.

Today’s global economic slowdown may be a blessing in disguise for India, allowing the nation to take stock of its growth in a more sustainable manner. In this context we must reengage design practices that result from a genuine exchange between the local and the global. The promise of such cultural dialogue has animated the fields of sociology, linguistics, and cultural history, and there’s no reason why architecture can’t also contribute to creative, engaging, and inclusive international dialogue. Divergent multiplicities rather than assumed uniformity in architecture and design should be the focus.

It would be a missed opportunity if we use this situation as merely new fertile ground for the urban elite—including the self-indulgent prophets and self-fulfilling architectural prophecies that pass for high design these days. I am wearier of the global elite than of the slumdog, and look forward to the exchanges yet to come.

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Concrete Is Forever
Rudy Ricciotti's Villa Navarra in Le Muy, France.
Philippe Ruault

Concrete inspires numerical superlatives when describing its ubiquity: Slightly more than a ton of concrete is produced every year for each human on the planet—over six billion—with Americans responsible for 2.5 tons per citizen. Produced at an estimated rate of five billion cubic yards per year, concrete is the second most widely consumed substance on earth after water. Concrete is the world’s oldest man-made building material. Yet, it’s the material’s dual personality that makes it both ubiquitous and appealing. Since the Industrial Revolution, concrete has been the robust, utilitarian workhorse for constructing bridges, tunnels, aqueducts, sidewalks, roadways, and barriers. Modern concrete is reinforced with steel and other materials, poured-in-place, precast, pre- and post-tensioned, tinted, molded, embossed, polished, and drilled. In its most modest state, it provides a building’s structure, which is then hidden behind a prettier skin. But it can also be a glamorous material, especially when it performs simultaneously as structure, form, and surface.

Earlier this month, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation hosted a conference called Solid States: Changing Time for Concrete. A series of panel discussions explored the dual personality of the material with some stunning examples of form following innovation. French architect and engineer Marc Mimram presented his study of what he calls “living infrastructure,” a project underwritten by Lafarge, one of the world’s largest producers of cement, concrete, aggregates, and gypsum, and the conference’s sponsor. Mimram’s work focuses on reconciling a city’s infrastructure with the inhabitants. He is currently investigating that uneasy relationship by designing four hypothetical bridges for four cities, using Lafarge’s high-performance, fiber-reinforced Ductal concrete.

Ductal is indeed glamorous, which makes it a high-profile achievement in the realm of concrete innovation. French architect Rudy Ricciotti designed the Footbridge of Peace entirely out of Ductal in 2002. The pedestrian bridge crosses the Han River in Seoul, South Korea, with a 400-foot arch, no middle supports, and a deck only a breathtaking 1 1⁄4-inches thick.

The “world’s first” anything always captures the public’s imagination. Although many exquisite feats of engineering and design were presented at the conference, much attention was given to how much priorities have shifted with regard to building materials and construction. Global environmental imperatives are now at odds with concrete’s numerical superlatives. Not all large numbers are desirable. For example, the production of concrete uses approximately one trillion gallons of water each year—a devastating impact on many societies, especially if water becomes a diminishing resource, as scientific research suggests.

The environmental impact of manufacturing concrete is not lost on the industry. In 2000, the U.S. concrete industry’s Strategic Development Council (SDC) conducted a workshop to discuss the past, present, and future of concrete. A year later it published Vision 2030: A Vision of the U.S. Concrete Industry, a guide to the future presenting ambitious goals. First of all, it establishes the concrete industry’s commitment to sound energy use and environmental protection. Secondly, it commits the industry to improving efficiency and productivity in all concrete manufacturing processes. Research in new materials, processing technologies, delivery mechanisms, and applications of information technology is being developed to ensure that concrete remains the construction material of choice based on life-cycle cost and performance.

Vision 2030 is particularly focused on finding ways to unify a diverse and localized industry, which will have a positive environmental impact. The guide admits that because the industry is fragmented, it has been “slow to investigate new technology options, reluctant to invest in research, and hesitant to adopt new technology as it becomes available.” Risk aversion slows innovation, but there are external obstacles in play as well. For instance, transportation accounts for 20 to 50 percent of the cost of ready-mixed concrete. And yet, many communities have adopted a “not-in-my-backyard” attitude toward heavy industry, so concrete and cement plants and aggregate sources are forced to move farther away from delivery points.

According to the industry, manufacturing operates in a prescriptive rather than performance-based environment. Thus, the full potential of concrete often is unrealized. And yet, as long as concrete procurement favors the lowest bidder, manufacturers will have to keep costs low to be competitive. As a result, they have little incentive to spend money on the research and development of improved performance.

Extenuating circumstances such as these are not always apparent when discussing how all industries must reduce their impact on the environment. While the challenges are great, they are not insurmountable. A year after Vision 2030 was published the Concrete Research and Education Foundation produced Roadmap 2030, an initiative to assist implementation of the SDC’s goals. Roadmap 2030 is frank, detailed, and includes a myriad of alternative constituent materials, delivery systems, and manufacturing processes. It appears that the concrete industry would like to realize its goals in its own way before environmental compliance regulations do it for them, potentially reducing market share. Progress since 2001 is hard to quantify, but the SDC’s Accelerating Implementation Team has several promising initiatives underway, including the long overdue adoption of performance-based specifications.

There’s another way to think about concrete. It has been in existence for thousands of years, because it is so flexible. It has accommodated every era’s technological progress. Its recipe allows for all sorts of material substitutions, including industrial waste. For example, typical production of one ton of Portland cement releases one ton of CO2 into the atmosphere, which accounts for about seven percent of all greenhouse gases. Increasingly, however, cement is being made of waste, such as fly ash (a byproduct of coal burning), slag cement (a byproduct of metal smelting), and silica fume (a byproduct of silicon metal production). Christian Meyer, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Columbia, and one of the organizers of Solid States has been researching how to make all kinds of waste valuable for concrete production—glass, carpet fibers, and even the highly contaminated dreck at the bottom of New York Harbor. The simple theory being, one industry’s detritus is another industry’s valuable resource. Waste—the new renewable resource.

Sara Hart is a writer in New York City who contributes regularly to Architectural RecordArchitect, and other publications.  

 



Concrete Poetry 

To survey the latest advances in concrete applications, AN presents ten projects that explore its structural and expressive potential. Whether for high-performance uses or elegant finish effects, these works show that the oldest construction material is still the most fluid.

With contributions from Alan G. Brake, Jeff Byles, Matt Chaban, Anne Guiney, Julie V. Iovine, and Aaron Seward. 
 


Villa Navarra
Philippe Ruault
 

Pont du Diable
Courtesy Agence Rudy Ricciotti

Villa Navarra / Le Muy, France
Pont du Diable / Hérault, France
Agence Rudy Ricciotti 

Two projects from French architect Rudy Ricciotti are among the first to explore the structural potential of Lafarge’s high-performance Ductal concrete. With its visor-like roof jutting from the Provencal landscape, the Villa Navarra marks a boldly framed villa and gallery space for collector Enrico Navarra. Featuring a stunning, 25-foot cantilever, the roof is composed of 17 fiber-reinforced Ductal panels, each engineered to take into account thermal expansion, wind resistance, and size restrictions due to transportation of the units, which were precast by Montpellier-based Bonna Sabla using metal molds fabricated by an aviation-industry supplier. Each 7.7-foot-wide panel is edged by two lateral inertia ribs, which taper toward the cantilever and are joined together with a resin-injected socket. A silicon joint keeps the upper portion of the ribs waterproof, while perforations along the structure’s edge—which measures just over 1 inch thick at its tip—allow light to penetrate the porch-like gallery below.

Ductal’s compressive strength is taken more dramatically to task in Ricciotti’s Pont du Diable, a footbridge spanning 236 feet across a gorge in the Hérault district of southwestern France. Composed of 15 sections weighing 10.5 tons each (also precast by Bonna Sabla), the sleek structure, completed in August, makes a low impact upon this world heritage site along the route of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. JB

 



 

Dean Bierwagen

Ultra-High Performance Concrete Pi-Girder Bridge
Aurora, Iowa
Federal Highway Administration 

In building infrastructure, and especially bridges, the Federal Highway Administration does not choose a preferred material; it makes choices based on site-specific performance issues such as safety, construction speed and ease, and rate of deterioration. The new ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC)—in the U.S., Lafarge’s Ductal is the only one currently available, although Densit in Denmark and Bouyges in France have also developed UHPCs—makes the most sense for locations where weather conditions are subject to random freezes and sudden thaws. In late October, a UHPC was used for the first time in the U.S. for a bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa. The Aurora bridge differs from conventional concrete usage in that both beams and deck were fabricated off-site. Once cast, the bridge was assembled on-site in less than a week. “The advanced concretes are inherently more durable, quicker, and safer to use,” said Benjamin Graybeal, a research engineer for the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). Additionally, UHPC lends itself to a new girder shape developed by the FHA in collaboration with MIT, known as the Pi-Girder, where pier and deck plate are of a single piece, an added efficiency. “It’s a shape that optimizes the properties of this particular concrete and its abilities to address structural demands,” said Graybeal, noting that Ductal is still too expensive to be considered for widespread FHA use. JVI

 


 


Peter Mauss/Esto

Natatorium
College of New Rochelle, New York
Ikon.5 Architects 

As part of a new wellness center for the 100-year-old College of New Rochelle, Princeton-based Ikon.5 Architects used concrete to create a modern-day grotto, sandblasting the material in order to emphasize the rough texture of its aggregate content. A double shell vault spans 80 feet without structural interruption, with the exterior casing operating as both waterproof barrier and green roof container. Mechanical ductwork, fire suppression material, and lighting are contained within the poche, allowing the grotto space to maintain its raw simplicity. The concrete mix contains recyclable blast furnace slag, reducing the admixture of less sustainable Portland cement by 50 percent. There was a challenge when it came time for the concrete pour. Due to the natatorium’s irregular elliptical curve it was difficult to make a concrete without air pockets at the bottom. “Based on a site mock-up, the problem was solved,” said Joe Tattoni of Ikon.5, “by widening the back of the form—which was invisible—to a shape somewhat like an elephant’s foot, it allowed for a more generous flow. And that worked perfectly.” JVI

 


 


Luxigon

One Madison Park
New York
Office of Metropolitan Architecture

For its first highrise condominium in Manhattan, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture put high-strength reinforced concrete to the test with a 30-foot cantilever graduated in steps extending over ten stories. The structural system, according to project architect Jason Long and developed with WSP Cantor Seinuk, is a shear tube or “3-D reinforced box system with concrete column sections like Vierendeel trusses” that thicken depending on the changing load (from a thickness of 4 feet 8 inches to 10 inches at the top). Rem Koolhaas described it as a “structural corset” squeezing the building’s midsection, from the 6th floor, where forces are transferred to the sidewalls, to the 15th floor at the maximum point of the cantilever. Openings in the sheer tube expand and contract the maximum amount allowed in relation to stresses, forming apertures for windows. The use of a structural tube system also meant column-free interiors, always a plus in residential work. While the architects wanted the condo to possess a certain urban toughness and hoped to reveal the structural concrete on the facade, the client balked (“If we were in Portugal the quality of concrete work might have made it possible,” said Long). Now the facade is to be finished in fiber reinforced concrete held in place with a polished stainless steel grid. JVI

 


 


Courtesy Reiser + Umemoto

O-14
Dubai
Reiser + Umemoto

With its concrete structure pulled to the exterior as a latticelike shell, Reiser + Umemoto’s 22-story Dubai office tower dispenses with conventional interior columns and walls. While freeing the core from the burden of lateral forces, the efficient, load-bearing shell also offers an appealing shading solution for exposed glass towers in the region’s blazing sun. Working with New York structural engineer Ysrael Seinuk, the architects modulated the tower’s circular openings to manage both structural requirements and sun exposure, cutting down on direct light while still permitting strategically placed views. A one-meter-deep cavity between the shell and building enclosure also creates a chimney effect, drawing hot air away from the building and cooling the tower’s inner glass surface. The perforated shell is created by pouring super-liquid concrete around a mesh of woven steel reinforcement, resulting in a structure that is roughly 60 percent solid and 40 percent void. The 1,326 apertures in the shell are achieved by introducing computer-numerically-cut polystyrene void forms into the rebar matrix, then siding the voids with modular steel slip forms prior to the concrete pour. The shell’s thickness tapers from 1.9 feet at the tower’s base to 1.3 feet at the parapet, offering a ruggedly refined addition to the Dubai skyline. JB

 


 


Courtesy Steven Holl Architects

Vanke Center
Shenzhen, China
Steven Holl Architects 

The 1.3-million-square-foot mixed-use office, hotel, and condominium is depicted by its architect Steven Holl as a recumbent Empire State Building. Supported on eight legs, this floating skyscraper is unusual in that it takes a concrete structural frame and transforms it into a suspension bridge-type structure with elevator and mechanical shafts serving as piers. Now under construction and due to be completed in late 2009, the building hovers on 50-meter spans from core to core. Steel cables in stiffening tubes support the bottom deck suspended above a tropical garden, with a high-strength composite concrete structure rising five stories above. The bamboo formwork used on parts of the exterior adds a modest decorative effect. Before construction began, a full-scale mock-up was created and subjected to maximum simulated shaking to make sure this novel concrete megastructure would be tsunami-proof. JVI

 


 


Courtesy Allied Works Architecture 

Clyfford Still Museum
Denver, Colorado
Allied Works Architecture 

Brad Cloepfil, like so many notable architects before him—Le Corbusier, the Smithsons, Tadao Ando—has been fascinated by the limitless possibilities of working in concrete. “I always think about concrete as witchcraft,” he said. “No one knows everything you can do with it.” Starting with his earliest work, the Maryhill Overlook on the Columbia River Gorge, the Portland architect has always pushed the boundaries of concrete. Now, with Allied Works’ designs for the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, he is attempting to render it as the very earth from which it came. To evoke the prairies from which the museum rises, Cloepfil is developing a unique pouring process that will create geological bands of concrete within the walls. “The feeling is that it’s almost carved out of the earth,” he said. Using a monolithic pour, the design team has been experimenting with varying the types of aggregate, dryness of the mix, and time between pours so that each pouring, which takes place in 12- to 36-inch bands, takes on its own character. Cloepfil said he has never encountered such an application before, and he thinks he knows why—it is incredibly challenging to get right. After 30 4-foot-by-8-foot mock-ups, he’s still experimenting. “It’s like a choreography,” he said. “We’re doing a dance, and it’s got to be perfect, but that takes an unbelievable amount of work.” MC

 


 


Courtesy Toshiko Mori Architect

Darwin Martin Visitor Center
Buffalo, New York
Toshiko Mori Architect 

In the otherwise all-glass Darwin Martin Visitor Center, the designers at Toshiko Mori Architect inserted a solid concrete wall at the back of the space to conceal bathrooms, kitchens, and other non-public spaces. Rather than settle for a blank screen, they wanted the wall to respond to the Frank Lloyd Wright house which the facility serves, and so introduced horizontal banding across the surface to match the Roman brick and recessed mortar joints of Wright’s work. Achieving a materiality that the designers were satisfied with turned out to be more work than they expected. They experimented with nine different mixes of architectural concrete and conducted numerous studies to realize a smooth finish. The mix they wound up using employs a superplasticizer, which increases the material’s fluidity by softening the mix before it hardens and reducing the amount of water needed, thus increasing compressive strength. The method of installation also required extensive testing, as avoiding bubbles in the surface was made more difficult by the horizontal bands. In the end, the contractor injected the concrete into the base of the custom-made forms, filling them from the bottom to the top, and used an internal vibrating machine to shake out excess air. AS

 


 


Rien Van Rijthoven

Congregation Beth Sholom Synagogue
San Francisco
Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects 

The ark-like form which is the distinguishing feature of Congregation Beth Sholom’s new synagogue in San Francisco presents a perfectly smooth and solid face to the street that belies the difficulty in creating a 24-foot-high, 24-inch-thick concrete double shell. According to Neil Kaye, project manager at Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects, to achieve the incredibly fine finish that they wanted for both interior and exterior of the volume which holds the sanctuary, they built several full-scale mock-ups and tested everything from the form release to the way the sealant affected the concrete’s color. “It was a very plastic mix because we had to keep a certain level of liquidity during the lift in order to get fine cold joints,” said Kaye. The outer shell went up first in three separate lifts, and then the rebar was laid in; the inner shell came last. On the interior, Saitowitz made use of concrete’s plastic qualities and incorporated the acoustic baffles into the walls themselves. The acoustician, Charles Salter, had determined that a 15 degree offset would be optimal for the space, and so when the formwork for the inner shell was going in, they inserted pre-fab fiberglass liners. The resulting panel-like forms incorporated into the sanctuary’s walls serve a second and valuable function of decoration, as they shape sunlight as well as sound. AG

 


 


Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing

SOS Children’s Village Lavezzorio Community Center
Chicago, Illinois
Studio Gang 

With material costs rising and a fixed budget of $3.5 million, the architects at Studio Gang had to rethink their design for this community center, stripping away the planned brick screen. That left the double-cantilevered concrete structure exposed. “We thought, ‘let’s investigate the fluidity of concrete,’” said managing architect Mark Schendel. To express this structurally, the architects used three different strengths of concrete in alternating bands for the 12-inch-thick walls. They used chemically stiffened concretes with very low slump, or viscosity, so that even after vibration, the bands kept their wavy appearance. Each of the seven bands was a separate pour, or lift, and each is reinforced according to the strength of the concrete (if the wall had been constructed conventionally, it would have been poured in two lifts). Working with general contractor Bovis Lend Lease and engineer Thornton Tomasetti, the architects choreographed the elaborate sequence of pours to keep costs low. “Bovis was working on Trump Tower at the time, so whenever they had a truck with the strength of concrete we were looking for, they would pull it out of the line and send it to our project,” he said. That allowed them to leverage the economy of scale from the massive skyscraper project. In addition, the architects economically tested their ideas by using the elevator core as a mockup. AGB

Placeholder Alt Text

Beyond Transparency



courtesy weiss/manfredi architects

BARNARD NEXUS
New York, 2009
Weiss/Manfredi Architects


The word contextuall strikes fear in the hearts of many architects, not because sensitivity to one's surroundings is a bad thing, but because its definition has proved to be so elastic, and even political. At one end of the spectrum, there is Prince Charles and his advocacy for 19th-century buildings with 21st-century technology; others argue that scale, massing, and material should be the central concerns for architects working within a developed site. For an arts building for the Barnard College campus, New York's Weiss/ Manfredi Architects is making a strong argument for the latter approach. When the Barnard Nexus is complete in 2009, it should show that sensibility can be more faithful to context than duplication: Instead of using the red brick that characterizes many of the college's older buildings, the architects riff on brick's color and material qualities. The steel-framed building will have a glass curtain wall whose surface suggests the spectrum of tone and texture inherent to brick.

Weiss/Manfredi won an invited competition to design a new arts library at Barnard in 2004 based on a design that would rectify the longstanding problem of a dramatic grade change between Broadway and the edge of the campus at 119th Street that created an unfriendly wall along the street. Two ideas were central to their early schemes: The first was to draw the public green space up diagonally through the building, making it visible from outside; the second was to develop a curtain wall that was a mixture of terra cotta panels and glass. The terra cotta would be a gesture of solidarity towards Milbank Hall (1896) next door, while the transparency of the glass would let the building light up its corner of the green and encourage students to use it as a social space as well as an academic one. As the design process progressed, however, they began to consider different materials. Principal Marion Weiss described making a series of charcoal sketches of the facade and getting interested in the blurred quality it gave to the panels: When we were working with terra cotta and clear glass, it was either figure or ground,, she explained, but the charcoal suggested a less definite line. Sometimes the tools you use are suggestive, and it is important to be able to capture the quality of an accident..

The project team began to look at glass and different ways of using it. They developed a system whereby the colored glass panels would be backed by a shallow cavity closed off by sheetrock, which they began to refer to as a shadow box. This gap (which is still being determined, but could be anywhere from 3 to 5 inches) is clearly perceptible as sunlight passes through it; the vertical supports, which will be painted, read as somewhat darker, and give definition and depth to the cavity, Like luminous terra cotta,, as Weiss described it. They are still experimenting with the shade of the sheetrock back panel, and Weiss said that it may well change over the course of the building in order to give more texture to the faaade. Partner Michael Manfredi described bringing endless samples to the roof of the building and seeing how one piece of colored glass looked 3 inches away from the back panel versus 5, or with white sheetrock behind it versus colored. The deeper the shadow box,, Weiss said, the more expensive it is, but it is also a richer effect..

Weiss/Manfredi found a company that could acid-etch or bake color onto the number 1 [exterior] surface of a glass panel. Usually the frit is on the number 2 or 3 surface, so the exterior is still highly reflective,, explained Weiss. The acid-etched frit gives a softer matte texture to the glass surface. Another issue was color: It is often laminated between two sheets, but the problem is that you are paying for more glass, and because the panel is heavier, the curtain wall structure has to be stronger.. The pattern on the facade loosely follows Nexus' more public spaces, which form a diagonal path through the building and terminate in a rooftop garden. To standardize construction, they developed a five-foot module, but have been able to give the faaade a finer overall grain by using more or less frit as needed. Mindful of the lessons of the charcoal sketch, the transitions from clear to opaque are rarely abrupt. Glass is typically treated as a neutral skin, and architects want to dematerialize it and make it go away,, said Weiss. We got interested in its presence and potential for decorative richness.. Anne guiney is an editor at AN.



Below: Weiss / Manfredi photographed various glass samples on the roof of their office in order to better understand the way shadowboxes of different depths would affect color and opacity in sunlight.



Below: Shadow Box Detail Section
1 Extruded aluminum transom, painted
2 Insulated glass unit
3 Shadow box
4 Finished concrete topping slab
5 Extruded aluminum stack joint, painted
6 Painted metal spandrel panel
7 Pocket slab at anchors




Below: Exploded axonometric showing the Nexus' primary circulation route (blue), the open, public spaces which are an extension of the campus green outside (green), and the gradations of colored, fritted, and clear glass panels which clad the exterior (grayscale).



courtesy weiss/manfredi architects


CREDITS
Owner: Barnard College, New York

Architect: Weiss/Manfredi Architects, New York

Consultant(s)
M/E/P/FP:Jaros, Baum & Bolles, New York
Structural: Severud Associates, New York
Civil: Langan Engineering, New York
Landscape: HM White Site Architects
Lighting: Brandston Partnership, Inc, New York
Food Service: Ricca Newmark Design, New York
Theater: Fisher Dachs Associates, New York
Theater Acoustics: Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Norwalk, CT
Glazing: R.A. Heintges & Associates, New York
AV/IT/Acoustics/Security: Cerami & Associates, New York
AV/IT/Security: TM Technology Partners, New York
Pre-Construction Services: Bovis Lend Lease, New York

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
Mullion/Metal Cladding: Custom color three coat fluoropolymer metallic finish.
Exterior Glazing: Four-sided structurally glazed unitized aluminum system.
Multiple combinations of clear low-e (low iron), etched glass, etched tinted glass, and color translucent ceramic frit.

Roofing
Built-up roofing: Hydrotech garden roof system consisting of lawn and low-maintenance sedum.

Glazing
Glass: Interior Glazing: Glazed system with custom graphic interlayer.
Skylights: Custom translucent etched walkable surface set into pavement.

TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART GLASS PAVILION
Toledo, Ohio, 2006
Kazuyo Sejima +
Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA


Like its pristine Miesian predecessors, the Toledo Museum of Art's new Glass Pavilion is seductively light and deceptively simple. It appears to be a straightforward glass box under a flat roof, but unlike the Barcelona Pavilion or the Farnsworth House, this building houses a series of discrete spaces that serve a wide range of programs including a caff, exhibition space for light-sensitive objects, and a workshop for glass artists. The Tokyo-based firm SANAA has used this programmatic diversity to push the possibilities of a glass pavilion in both scale and ambition. For the firm's many admirers, the projecttSANAA's first in North Americaais an amplification of the work they have become known for, like the Kanazawa Museum of Contemporary Art, which also uses curved glass and simple massing strategies.

Within the pavilion's all-glass rectangular box, 13 glass volumes float almost bubblelike in plan and act as various gallery, event, and exhibition spaces. The programmatic requirements for the space were the primary generator for SANAA's emphasis on discrete volumes in the project, explained principal Ryue Nishizawa. Our design came from the museum itself: Different temperatures and humidities were needed for various rooms, including a hotshop that generates an enormous amount of heat. Also, it is a big place [76,000 square feet] and we needed to break up the space.. Between most volumes are interstitial spaces that act as insulating pockets, further regulating the interior conditions of the galleries.

While minimalism is often thought of as stripping down and removing the inessential, it is just as much about hiding the unappealing but necessary. In this case, SANAA embedded most of the structural columns within the four rooms which are not glass encloseddthree are built with standard a wood frame and sheetrock, and the fourth is clad in rolled steel. Slender columns are scattered throughout the interstitial cavities, but sited to obstruct sightlines minimally. To avoid disrupting the irregularly spaced and sized rooms, the firm, with structural engineers Guy Nordensen & Associates, planned an intricate roofing system to accommodate mechanical systems and maximize structural capacity without requiring a regular column grid. They managed this by using differently sized beams that worked around the columns and HVAC systems, all of which were locked into perpendicular girders through flanges. Given that the roof is only 24 inches from top to bottom, it required coordination between the structural and mechanical drawings,, described SANAA project manager Toshihiro Oki. Also, they used -inch plate steel on the corners of the building to act as bracing for lateral loads. This allowed the columns to be smaller and support only vertical loads.

The 13-foot-high glass panels which define most of the volumes had to be shipped from Austria to a plant in China and custom-formed through a slumpingg process, in which the glass is placed above a curved mold and then heated until it settles into place. The glass panels are flat, fully, or partially curved, and while many are different, the designers tried to standardize some of the curvatures in the building. Oki estimated that approximately 30 different molds had to be fabricated to create the panels.

These panels are slotted into tracks on the floor and ceiling. The lower tracks are embedded into the structural concrete floor with 3-inch slabs, and employ a U-track system with a rocker device at the bottom of each track to allow the glass panels some degree of movement. The rocking mechanism is stainless steel, and has a shallow parabolic shape. This keeps the glass level and vertical, and the flexibility minimizes the potential for breakage. The top track employs Teflon slip-plates to minimize friction and allow the glass to move slightly based on vertical loads. An L-shaped -inch steel plate is locked into place after the glass is installed to hold the panel in place.

This support system is both stable and flexible, allowing the system to respond to external factors without discernible effect on the panels, which, with many measuring 8 by 13-feet, are quite large. The designers used low-iron, Pilkington Opti-white glass in order to minimize green tint and provide colorless transparency, and also to acknowledge their interest in manipulating that transparency: We realized that curved glass would transfer light differently, and also transparency would change in the building just through the layering of glass,, said principal Kazuyo Sejima. In the mock-up we built, even two layers created a certain level of opacity..

While the firm has worked with curving glass before, Toledo's Glass Pavilion allowed a new kind of experimentation. We were able to work with much thinner glass in Ohio than in Japan,, noted Sejima. The result is both greater clarity and more precision with the forms. The building is a perfect vessel to showcase glass, itself a feat, but as Sejima commented, the material may be fragile, but working with it is really no big deal..
Jaffer Kolb is an assistant editor at AN
.

SANAA built a full-scale mockup (center) of the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion (bottom) to test the visual effect of layering the glass walls, which were slumpedd on frames (center right) in China and are held in place by track inset into the concrete floor (top right).



courtesy kazuyo seijima + ryue nishizawa / sanaa

Below: Ground Floor Plan
1 Permanent exhibition
2 Temporary exhibition
3 Hotshop
4 Lampworking room
5 Restaurant/cafe
6 Courtyard
7 Restrooms
8 Support space
9 Multi-purpose room




Below: Glass Track Details, Head and Shoe
1 Primaryroof structure
2 Shim
3 1⁄2" Steel plate
4 Head support steel angle
5 Stainless steel head support plate
6 Teflon slip pad
7 Neoprene load transfer block
8 3⁄8" + 3⁄8" Laminated glass with PVB interlayer
9 Finished floor
10 Silicone sealant
11 Stainless steel glazing channel
12 Glass support rocking mechanism
13 Shim
14 Blocking





CREDITS
Owner:Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH

Design Architect: Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, Tokyo

Architect of Record: Kendall Heaton Associates, Inc., Houston

Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson & Associates, New York Sasaki and Partners, Tokyo
MEP Engineer: Cosentini Associates, New York
Lighting: Arup Lighting, New York Kilt Planning Group, Tokyo
Curtain Wall Engineer: FRONT, Inc., New York
Civil Engineer: The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., Toledo, OH
Geotechnical Engineer: Bowser Morner, Toledo, OH
Acoustical/AV: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, New York

Landscape: Neville Tree & Landscape, Holland, Ohio
Glassmaking facility consultant: Spiral Arts, Inc., Seattle, WA
Lampworking consultant: Glasscraft, Inc., Golden, CO
Graphics: 2x4 (NYC)
Project Manager: Paratus Group, New York
General Contractor: Rudolph/Libbe, Walbridge, OH

GLASS SPECIFICATIONS
Glass: Pilkington Opti-White
Glass Fabricator: SanXin Glass Technology, Shenzhen, China
Glass doors & structural calculations: UAD Group, New York
Local glass installers: Toledo Mirror and Glass, Toledo, OH
Aluminum fascia anodizers: TRB-Andarn, Paterson, NJ


DETAIL
7 WORLD TRADE CENTER

New York, 2006
Skidmore Owings & Merrill


According to Chris Cooper of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, creating an all-glass building in New York City is a lot harder than it seems, especially while trying to work within the financial constraints of a speculative office tower like 7 World Trade Center. In Europe, it is becoming more and more common to use a double skin. As we were thinking about how to brighten the exterior while still using standard construction techniques, we reached out to Jamie Carpenter of James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), and together we looked at ways to bring light into the spandrels.. The solution the two firms ultimately came up with is a system whereby the window glass hangs over the finished edge of the floor slab, which is clad in galvanized steel panels. The resulting cavityywhich is open to the air, as each glass panel covers only 11 of the 33-foot slab depthhallows the glass to seemingly lighten the building's facade between floors . Clear glass with space behind it is always brighter,, said Cooper. To subtly increase that effect, they added a strip of blue stainless steel to the base of the sill. You can't see it, but the blue steel tempers the quality of the light as it reflects it,, explained Cooper.

Because SOM decided to use single-glazed windows on 7 WTC, there was concern that the spandrel detail would cause the glass to lose its insulating value: For 11 feet, each pane would be exposed to the weather on both sides, and presumably conduct the cold in. Before glass manufacturer Viracon would sign off on the system, it conducted a temperature distribution analysis, as did SOM and two other consultants. All four found that, while the glass felt cold to the touch, heat transferrand its attendant condensation insideecould be kept to a minimum by insulating the spandrel and using thermal separators. AG



Below: Spandrel Detail
1 3/88 Glazing with PVB interlayer
2 Spacer
3 Thermal separator
4 Blocking
5 Aluminum mullion
6 Insulation
7 Steel fascia
8 Blue stainless Steel strip
9 Gasket
10 Gutter splice
11 Blind pocket
12 Mullion wrapper



CREDITS
Owner: Silverstein Properties, New York
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York
Collaborating Artist: James Carpenter Design Associates Inc., New York
Construction Manager: Tishman Construction, New York
Structural Engineer: Cantor Seinuk, New York
MEP: Jaros Baum & Bolles, New York
Civil Engineer: Philip Habib & Associates, New York
Lighting Design: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, New York
Signage: Pentagram, New York
Security: Ducbella, Venter & Santore Security, North Haven, CT
Curtain Wall Fabricator: Permasteelisa Cladding Technologies, Windsor, CT
Curtain Wall Installer: Permasteelisa Cladding Technologies, Windsor, CT Curtain Wall Glass: Viracon VRE-59


DETAIL
OFFICE BUILDING & SHOWROOM

Seoul, Korea, 2007
Barkow Leibinger Architekten


When architects Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger were asked to design a spec office building in an area of Seoul that hadn't even been developed yet, they realized they wouldn't be able to turn to the usual sourcessthe needs of clients, the feel of the neighborhooddto begin the design process. The site is a part of Digital Media City, a government-initiated project that will ultimately be a 2.5-square-mile business center between the airport and downtown Seoul. Since the only truly known quantity they had at the outset of the process was the budget, Barkow Leibinger decided to plan for the worst: The architects developed a highly reflective glazed primary faaade that would, in Barkow's words, take the neighborssno matter how terrible they might beeand pixilate them into coolness.. A mockup they built and put in the courtyard of their Berlin office showed endless fragmented images of the brick building, small triangles of blue sky, and cubist versions of anybody who happened to walk by.

The polygonal geometry of the faaade grew in part from conversations with the artist Olafur Eliasson, who was also working on a piece called the Quasi-Brick Wall that explored likeminded ideas. Eliasson served as an in-house critic for Barkow Leibinger while the Berlin office of Arup helped them turn the idea into a working curtain wall.

For all its kaleidoscopic glory, the 11-story building's plan is actually quite straightforward, and the curtain wall is based on a single module to make construction easier. The primary faaade is comprised of one 4-by-3.3-meter module that is rotated and flipped upside down to create a varied pattern; on the rear of the building, the curtain wall is flat to accommodate the service core, which is pushed to a rear corner to leave interior spaces open enough to accommodate any future tenant. According to Barkow, who has seen full-scale mockups in place on the construction site, It is a shallow, economical section, but when they are put together, there is the sense of being within a volumeethe faaade itself becomes volumetric.. Each of the module's seven surfaces is a piece of highly reflective glass held in place with silicone. The silver-white glass may fracture everything that ultimately passes by it but, promised Barkow, It's low-iron energy glass that lets in 49 percent of the sunlighttit isn't dark, 1970s stuff, like Houston in the bad old days.. AG

Below: A scale mockup of the faceted curtain wall gave a kaleidoscopic reflection of its surroundings, in this case, Barkow Leibinger's Berlin office.



Below: Barkow Leibinger designed an office building (below) for a site in Seoul's new Digital Media City, which is a massive government-initiated development on the outskirts of the city. As one of the earlier projects to go into construction, the only real constraints on the architects were zoning restrictions and budget.



Below: Curtain Wall Detail
1 Steel bracket
2 Anti-glare blind
3 Aluminum interior joint
4 Register with convector
5 Double-glazed glass panels




CREDITS
Client: TKR Sang Am
Design Architect: Barkow Leibinger Architekten, Berlin
Contact Architect: ChangJo Architects, Seoul
Structural Engineer: Schlaich Bergermann and Partners, Stuttgart
Jeon Lee and Partners, Seoul
Curtain Wall Consultant: Arup GmbH, Berlin,
Alutec Ltd., Seoul
Glass manufacturer: Viracon VRE-43


DETAIL
BRONX CRIMINAL COURT COMPLEX

New York, 2006
Rafael Viioly Architects


After the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed on August 7, 1998, leaving 224 dead and 5,000 injured, the Government Services Administration (GSA) beefed up its blastproofing standards for new construction. Rafael Viioly Architects had already begun design work on the Bronx Criminal Court Complex in New York, and while blast resistance was included in the program, the architects decided to team up with curtain wall fabricator Enclos Corporation to incorporate the GSA's new standards into the all-glass design. The court complex was already under construction when September 11 prompted safety requirements to be raised yet again, but Viioly's building already met most of the new standards, so the architects didn't have to put construction on hold.

The building's primary street-facing curtain wall is a series of triangular protrusions that form a sawtooth shape in plan; structural silicone holds Viracon low-E insulated glass panels in aluminum mullions. We were working with the physics of blasts,, said Fred Wilmers, project architect at Rafael Viioly Architects. They are impulse forces that last a matter of seconds, so a flexible surface that gives with the blast but remains intact, is actually more efficient than a rigid surface.. For example, a 1,000-pounds-per-square-foot blast applied to a rigid surface would produce a much higher-static pressure than the same blast load applied to a flexible surface, like a curtain wall system.

Due to security concerns, Wilmers was unable to speak specifically about the level of blast the court is built to withstand. He did say that the criterion for passing blast force is that glass doesn't fly into the building more than a certain distance. This means that not only does the glass have to stand up to a blast (a PVB interlayer on the interior pane prevents it from shattering), but so does the aluminum and silicone. The sawtooth shape that is so central to the building's aesthetic is also an important component of the curtain wall's blast resistance: Because the blast force would presumably meet the glass at an angle, its impact would be more diffused than on a flat surface. The designers also worked with the assumption that blasts would come from street level, so the wall was designed with a vertical gradient of blast resistance. On lower floors, mullions are reinforced with steel.

Blast resistance is about protecting the people inside the building,, noted Wilmers, not the building itself. After a blast, the outer panes of the glass would be shattered and the aluminum would be distorted, but the people inside wouldn't be hit with shredded aluminum and glass shards. It is for a one-time use, howeverrit couldn't resist a second blast..

The fact that a glass curtain wall is capable of meeting current security requirements is the key lesson of this building. It offers hope that in this age of terrorism, civic structures don't need to be concrete bunkers.
Aaron Seward is projects editor at AN.





Below: Vertical mullion at unit break and outside corner
1 Steel reinforcing plate
2 Painted aluminum mullion
3 Structural silicone
4 Insulated laminated glass unit
5 Painted aluminum corner mullion






CREDITS
Owner: City of New York, Department of Citywide Administrative Services, New York, NY
Developer: Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, New York, NY
Architects: Rafael Viioly Architects PC, New York, NY;
Architects and Engineers, New York, NY
Structural Engineers: Ysrael A. Seinuk, PC, New York, NY
General Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease, LMB, Inc., New York, NY
Curtain Wall Consultant: Gordon H. Smith Corp., New York, NY
Curtain Wall Fabricator: Enclos Corp., Egan, MN
Curtain Wall Erectors: Ornamental Installation Specialists, Warwick, NY
Enclos Corp., Egan, MN

Eavesdrop Issue 01_01.19.2005

THE RESULTS ARE INN
It turns out we're not the only ones who think Charles Gwathmey's new condo tower on Astor Place looks like it belongs in a Shenzhen office park. Granted, the building's not done yet, but our thoroughly unscientific poll has revealed that 100 percent of a select handful of acquaintances think it's somewhere between uglyy and the B-word (that would be banall). It's shiny. I'll give it that,, one respondent offered. In fairness, we should mention that some peopleeactually, just Gwathmeyyhave admiringly compared the curvy glass tower to an obelisk (come to think of it, our fire escape evokes Louis Sullivan, too). And it's definitely a stellar example of the Floor Area Ratio school of architecture. However, call us chumps, but many of us had higher hopes for a site as storied as Astor Place. Mind you, we fully support the Cooper Union, which owns the land on which Gwathmey's building sitssand on whose board Gwathmey once sattin making a pretty penny. (It leased the site to the Related Companies, which was the developer). But you'd think they'd make sure we got something better, even if it still meant luxury condos for rich people,, says one observer, reminding us of the school's social mission and High Architecture posturing. They definitely took the ivory out of the ivory tower with this one..

THE BEST OF GROUND ZERO
The day after 9/11, Rem Koolhaas, who was in Chicago, did what any traumatized glamitect would: He headed to the nearest Prada. That, at least, is according to Philip Nobel's hotly anticipated new book, Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero (Metropolitan), which is now landing in stores. The book rehashes a number of unflattering incidents: how aspiring Ground Zero designer Rafael Viioly's onetime association with the Argentine junta somehow turned into a convenient yet unverifiable story about his own political persecution; Frank Gehry's controversial I-won't-work-for-just-$40,000 stance; and let's not even start with Daniel and Nina Libeskind. Added to this are new revelations, like about how the Library of Congress paid gallerist Max Protetch a whopping $408,140 to acquire the 58 architect schemes that Protetch pulled together in 2002 for his blockbuster show of Ground Zero proposals. And then there's the one about Protetch discussing the site's future with LMDC chairman Roland Betts while prancing about in his underwear (they were at the gym). Has Nobel turned into architecture's Kitty Kelly? No, his book has all the hard-hitting insights and analyses you'd want. But perhaps it's one of his other juicy tidbits that best characterizes the behavior of many architects in the Ground Zero fiasco: in a missive to Gehry, who'd earlier declined to join his so-called THINK team, Charles Gwathmey wrote: Peter [Eisenman], Richard [Meier], and I think you are a total prick..

OLD MAN SACHS GETS HIP
EavesDrop has learned that the proposed $1.8 billion Goldman Sachs headquarters in Battery Park City, designed by Harry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed, will feature the work of some young'uns, too. After a closed competition that we hear included the likes of Architecture Research Office, Allied Works, and others, Preston Scott Cohen was tapped to create an outdoor arcade, while SHoP will design a conference center. We're told landscape architect Ken Smith has also been thrown into the mix.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com