Search results for "little rock"

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Torr Kaelan
The house features a concrete brick aesthetic.
Rob Quigley, Steve Simpson

On a recent morning, sunlight raked the white concrete block of architect Rob Quigley’s new five-story live/work building in downtown San Diego. He and wife Kathleen, who served as contractor, have dubbed the building Torr Kaelan, Gaelic for rock outcropping or boulder. It includes a pair of penthouses on the fourth and fifth floors, as well as offices on the second and third floors, occupied by Quigley’s firm and a graphic design company.

Nearby, the dome of San Diego’s new central library, also designed by Quigley, stands as a civic beacon. Together with Antoine Predock’s Petco Park baseball stadium, it is spurring a new wave of downtown development. A veteran of downtown, Quigley first staked his claim in the 1980s with a live/work building in Little Italy. Since then he has designed downtown SROs, multi-family housing, mixed-use buildings, and the New Children’s Museum in the urban core.

The chopped-up facade.

The Quigleys bought the 42-by-100-foot lot five years ago. The building combines concrete block, concrete, steel, and a large variety of aluminum windows. The concrete block was assembled with what Quigley calls “juicy joints”—grouting that oozes from between the bricks. The pieces are finished with an inexpensive mix of lime and water, slopped on with brushes. It provides a flat finish that will patina over time. Filled with concrete and rebar, the five-story walls are mostly 8-inches thick, 12-inches where loads are greater. The front facade is energized by popouts: a third-level conference room and an angled penthouse balcony.

From the sidewalk, a redwood door swings open to the chime of a sculpture of steel tines, made by a local artist. Redwood is used extensively inside and out, the architect’s nod to the redwood forests that produced lumber for many early California buildings. Access to upper levels is by elevator or stairs of thin folded steel, visible as they rise through the open spaces.

Open planned living space opens up a carved outdoor space.

Next to the pedestrian entrance, cars enter through a motorized steel gate that leads to a courtyard at the building’s open center, which rises to the 60-foot-tall building’s roof. Surrounding this space with lots of glass, interiors are flooded with natural light. Behind the courtyard is an underground garage with chargers for Quigley’s Tesla and Kathleen’s Leaf. Two other parking lots are tucked elsewhere under the building, accessible from side streets.


Quigley’s penthouse has an open plan beneath an 11½-foot-high ceiling. Full-height bookshelves cover one wall. The kitchen has concrete counters and steel shelves. The centerpiece of the open living area is a tall, shallow Rumford fireplace—named for Sir Benjamin Thompson, a.k.a. Count Rumford, whose 18th-century invention is known to increase airflow and project heat deep into a room.

Long a proponent of green design, Quigley said that Torr Kaelan is net zero. Passive solar and energy-efficient lighting contribute. Operable windows and a rooftop cupola skylight are adjusted through winter and summer to regulate air flow and temperature. Quigley would like to recycle gray water but current San Diego codes will not allow it. In case codes are revised, the building is plumbed for recycling.

After 30 years downtown, Quigley said he plans to stay well into old age. He enjoys life in this bustling urban environment. Earlier this year, he and Kathleen attended the library’s first anniversary party, watching acrobats swing on a trapeze in an archway.

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One of these five projects will be named winner of the 2015 Rudy Bruner Awards in urban design
The Rudy Bruner Awards for Urban Excellence have announced the five finalists for 2015. Founded in 1987, the accolade recognizes urban design, architecture and urban planning projects which address economic and social concerns within their environment. Sponsoring the award is the Bruner Foundation, founded by Massachusetts architect Simeon Bruner who named the award after his late father, Rudy Bruner. Aiming to emphasize the role of architecture in the urban environment, the award identifies and honors places rather than people to advance discourse about how to improve cities. First to receive the award was Pike Place Market in Seattle. Seventy-three places in 25 states have been awarded since. The finalists for the 2015 Rudy Bruner Awards for Urban Excellence are as follows: Falls Park on the Reedy Greenville, SC The renaissance of a 26-acre river corridor running through the heart of Greenville, restoring public access to the falls and green space and catalyzing adjacent downtown development. (Submitted by the City of Greenville.) Grand Rapids Downtown Market Grand Rapids, MI A new downtown public space promoting local food producers and community events, entrepreneurship, and education about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. (Submitted by Grand Rapids Downtown Market.) Miller’s Court Baltimore, MD The redevelopment of a vacant manufacturing building into an affordable and supportive living and working environment for public school teachers and education-focused nonprofits. (Submitted by Enterprise Community Investment.) Quixote Village Olympia, WA A two-acre community of 30 tiny houses and a common building that provides permanent, supportive housing for chronically homeless adults. (Submitted by Panza.) Uptown District Cleveland, OH The vibrant redevelopment of a corridor linking art, educational and healthcare institutions with surrounding neighborhoods, creating lively outdoor gathering spaces, retail shops, and restaurants, student and market-rate housing, and public transit connections. (Submitted by Case Western Reserve University.) The finalists and ensuing Gold and Silver Medalists are selected by a nationwide committee of urban experts, including a mayor. The 2015 selection committee includes:
  • Rebecca Flora, Sustainable Communities Practice Leader, Ecology & Environment, Chestertown, MD
  • Larry Kearns, Principal, Wheeler Kearns Architects, Chicago, IL
  • India Pierce Lee, Program Director, Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland, OH
  • Mia Lehrer, President, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Los Angeles, CA
  • James Stockard, Lecturer in Housing, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA
  • Mark Stodola, Mayor, Little Rock, AR
Next month, Brunder Foundation staff will conduct site visits to each finalist project in preparation for the committee’s selection of the medal winners in June. Staff will spend 2–3 days touring the site, taking photos and interviewing those who are involved in the project. The medalists will receive cash awards to support their projects: one Gold Medal recipient—$50,000, four Silver Medal recipients—$10,000 each. Past winners include Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles, a building complex located in Skid Row designed as a center for teaching inner city children art through afterschool and weekend arts programs. “The Rudy Bruner Award offers the opportunity to showcase innovative placemaking responses to the needs of American cities and communities,” said Simeon Bruner, founder of the award. “We want to advance discourse about making cities better, and seek outstanding examples to share with those who care about improving our urban environments. There are a surprising number of inventive projects out there, if you just look for them.”
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The Incredible Shrinking Waiting Room
Lauritzen Outpatient Center by HOK.
Courtesy HOK

Lauritzen Outpatient Center
University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE
Architects: HOK

Patients have described Nebraska Medical Center as a maze, which can make navigating the campus a challenge. The University of Nebraska melds with Clarkson and University Hospitals, coming together at a point just west of downtown Omaha.

Soon patients making the trip for same-day operations and services will be able to streamline that journey, once the four-story Lauritzen Outpatient Center is complete in August 2016.

“The goal is to create a one-stop shop for outpatient services, focused on outpatient surgery procedures,” Rosanna Morris, the hospital’s chief operating officer, told Livewell Nebraska. At 165,000 square feet, the building is anchored by 12 outpatient surgical suites. It also includes flexible clinic space with universal exam room layouts. Radiology and pharmacy services will be provided, as well as occupational and physical therapy. Clinical spaces will comprise almost 200,000 square feet, with structured parking tucked beneath the building.

The latest addition to Omaha’s sprawling medical campus, now under construction, is a facility dedicated to outpatient services. Architects at HOK and RDG worked to streamline wayfinding in the four-story building, adding separate elevator bays for patients entering and exiting.

“One of the key challenges of the project is the patient experience,” said HOK’s senior medical planner, Kerry Cheung. The building’s massing is organized around a central volume that houses three separate elevator bays and puts forth a glassy, south-facing public front. Cheung said the layout allows patients to intuitively find their way from the main elevator core to wherever they’re going.

The southern elevators serve patients entering the building and traveling to care facilities, while another bay serves back-of-house activities and staff transport. A third elevator core offers patients leaving after surgery and check-ups to bypass the waiting rooms and other areas they might have to backtrack through in other hospitals.


“There’s a really important concept of the design where we separate the traffic flows so patients don’t see carts going down the hallway,” said Cheung, “And so there’s a much more private and dignified exit.”

To further aid wayfinding and the patient experience, designers worked with the client to consolidate clinic space, from orthopedics to physical therapy, alongside medical imaging. Unlike in older healthcare facilities, where getting an x-ray often requires an odyssey to another part of the building or even another address, Lauritzen doctors will be able to easily refer patients down the hall.

“One of the key reasons for us being able to do that is that everyone came together and decided that’s the best way to serve the patient,” said Cheung.

That new building will also allow the hospital to consolidate outpatient surgery rooms from University Tower and repurpose that space.

HOK is collaborating with RDG on the project, and MCL is the contractor. Construction on the new facility began this fall.

Chris Bentley

Perkins Eastman transformed Albert Ledner’s quirky O’Toole building into a bright and efficient emergency department.
Chris Cooper

Lenox Hill Healthplex
New York, New York
Architects: Perkins Eastman

The sudden closure of St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village left lower Manhattan with a serious shortage of emergency room capacity. At the same time the Albert C. Ledner-designed O’Toole building, located in a New York City landmark district, stood empty; its quirky forms and layout (thankfully) resistant to easy condominium conversion. Following a national trend toward smaller, faster outpatient care centers, North Shore-LIJ purchased the building to create Manhattan’s first stand-alone emergency department, which opened late this summer.

The idea behind these stand-alone emergency centers is to improve care and lessen wait times by concentrating services for the vast majority of emergency room visits, including an X-ray, CT, and MRI imaging center, ultrasounds, and ambulatory surgery, all of which are for outpatient treatments. Patients requiring long-term care are transferred to a traditional hospital (EMTs make a determination in the ambulance about which facility is best suited to the patient’s needs, or the patient can request a specific hospital). “It’s a faster way to deliver care,” said Frank Gunther, a principal at Perkins Eastman, the firm that lead the adaptive reuse project.


The architects worked with the Landmarks Preservation Commission and New York’s State Historic Preservation Office to update the building’s distinctive top-heavy exterior. They removed white tiles that had been added to the exterior and tested the concrete underneath to determine the exact shade of white stain Ledner had used. They created a new glass entry pavilion with a cantilevered glass canopy that extends out to the sidewalk, which opens up the otherwise opaque building to the street. Once inside, visitors encounter unusually small waiting areas, which flank the entrance—the proof of the in-and-out, patient-centered approach. Twenty-six exam rooms are arranged around the perimeter with access to natural light through the translucent glass block walls. In the center, a “results waiting area” with semi-private cubicles is bounded by two nurses stations, putting patients and care-givers in immediate proximity. The interiors are bright and uncluttered, cheerful yet serene.


Responding to community demographics and needs, the facility also has a dedicated unit for treating victims of sexual assault and a decontamination unit for disaster preparedness, which are segregated from the walk-in areas. Staff offices and an ambulance reception area are located in the basement. The upper floors are being developed into medical offices.

The new facility serves a crucial role in the lower Manhattan community, and the efficient design helps make a trip to the emergency room both a shorter and more pleasant healing experience.

Alan G. Brake

Page’s Austin VA Outpatient Clinic was designed according to the principles of evidence-based design. Natural materials were used throughout the exterior and interior, and daylight and views to the surrounding landscape were provided in all appropriate spaces.
Casey Dunn Photography

Austin VA Outpatient Clinic
Austin, Texas
Architects: Page

At 260,000 square feet, the Austin VA Outpatient Clinic is the largest of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ freestanding outpatient centers. Built to replace a facility that was a quarter of its size, it provides greater capacity to serve the new generation of veterans from the nation’s recent foreign wars. It also consolidates all of the outpatient services that could conceivably be needed—from primary care to minor surgery—under one roof, so local patients do not have to travel to VA installations in other towns.

In addition to being larger than its predecessor, the new clinic is also more comfortable. The VA tasked Texas-based architecture firm Page with incorporating the principals of evidence based design into the facility, namely by giving users daylit environments, natural materials, and direct contact with the natural world. “One of the things that made this project challenging and interesting is that, because of the delivery structure, we had a very limited budget,” said Page design architect Peter Hoffman. “At the same time, the VA demanded that we incorporate the latest evidence based healthcare design concepts into the workspaces for the care givers as well as within the healing environment.”


Sited in a suburban office park not far from Austin Bergstrom International Airport, the architects looked to nearby McKinney Falls State Park to find inspiration for the building’s formal language and materiality. VA design guidelines called for CMU on the exterior. Page instead recommended using split-face blocks of local limestone in four different colors arranged in a horizontal, strata-like pattern reminiscent of the rock escarpments of the Texas Hill Country. To keep within the budget, the architects only used the stone on the public areas of the exterior—lower on the elevation and around the entrances—while using similarly colored, split-face CMU on the building’s back ends and higher up on the elevation.


This sort of playing with the VA design guidelines characterized much of the rest of the project as well. The guidelines suggested terrazzo in the lobby, for example, but Page found that they could save a substantial amount of money by instead specifying a porcelain tile for the lobby, allowing the architects to spend that savings on more natural materials throughout the interior, such as limestone in the elevator lobby, which is interspersed with vertical glass tile sections evocative of waterfalls—a regular theme throughout the project.

Another challenge that Page faced was bringing as much daylight as possible into the building’s deep floor plates. The architects achieved this through two devices. One is a lofty, north facing, glass-encased lobby—hung with a wave-like sculpture by San Francisco artist Daniel Goldstein—that brings sunlight deep into the interior. The other is the placement of large windows at the end of each of the building’s long corridors, which set up views to the landscaped exterior from almost any point within the facility.

Finally, Page incorporated nature into the project by the most direct means possible—by providing outdoor areas where patients can step out of the air conditioning and experience the weather. This being Texas, of course, the architects set up shaded tables and pavilions that offer some mediation of the powerful sun.

Aaron Seward

One Medical’s SoMa office feels more like a tech incubator or residential living room than a doctor’s office.
Dana Hoff

One Medical
San Francisco, California
Designers: Urban Chalet

Over the last few years employees at Urban Chalet, a design company based in San Francisco and New York, have taken on more than 25 facilities for One Medical, a company dedicated to making the outpatient experience more humane, not to mention hip. The company’s slogan is “The doctor’s office. Reinvented.”

New offices have opened in San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles, all catered to a sensibility that, in the words of Urban Chalet senior design director Michelle Granelli, is “modern, clean, comfortable, and sometimes a little fun and unexpected.”

A great example is their office in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, which at first glance looks like the headquarters of one of the city’s many creative tech offices, not a doctor’s office. And for good reason—the space once belonged to a graphic design firm, and that became an instant inspiration for the plan. “We wanted it to almost feel like the graphic design company moved out and the doctor’s office moved right in,” said Granelli.


The high-ceilinged space’s rawness and layered textures are especially rare in a medical field obsessed with sterility. Utilities and wood surfaces are exposed, colorful walls are covered with patterns, and a digital wallcovering gives the illusion of raw concrete. “If we had the opportunity to leave something exposed we did,” said Granelli.

Modern furniture contributes to the clean aesthetic, including a modular felt sectional, black form chairs, and geometric copper-clad chairs. Hanging linear lights seem like a closer fit for Square’s or AirBnB’s offices.

The front desk was custom milled and topped by a row of hanging, exposed pendant bulbs. On the wall behind the desk the firm had the “One Medical” logo hand painted in a stencil pattern reflective of the previous company’s aesthetic. Exam rooms are treated with the same finishes, and, since they are located on the window line, receive plenty of natural light.

“Making the space welcoming and comforting hasn’t always been a priority in this field, but that’s changing,” said Granelli.  Each location is unique to its context, so the tech startup look in San Francisco is replaced, for example, by a space more similar to a high-end retail boutique in Beverly Hills. “We try to take into consideration not only the city and neighborhood, but the tenant space itself. That helps us keep the design elevated,” added Granelli.

Sam Lubell

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With the holidays gone, we’re still ogling these six gingerbread houses by Seattle architects
It was the warmest December on record in Seattle, but that didn't stop local architects from designing their annual round of gingerbread houses at Christmas. The 2014 theme, “Jingle All the Way,” was inspired by holiday songs, with donations raised during the event (as in years past) going to the JDRF Northwest Chapter. There were the usual suspects: crystalline candy windows, gumdrop roofs, candy cane sleds, and of course, pounds and pounds of gingerbread. But there are plenty of surprises too. Callison’s interpretation of three popular holiday tunes brought gingerbread to Hollywood; MulvannyG2 put Santa in a lounge chair on a Hawaiian beach; and 4D Architects rendered the Seattle skyline in candy, with highlights like the Space Needle, a ferry, kayakers, and what looks like a sedate version of the Gum Wall, done up in multi-colored jelly beans rather than previously chewed gum. There’s also a tree-topped construction crane and a roller coaster. Can you spot them? Have a game of Where’s Waldo or I Spy. Below were the other four Seattle gingerbread houses of 2014.
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Morphosis Computes a Facade for Cornell

The facade's stainless steel panels form a wave pattern, cutting down on glare and heat loads while representing the contribution computing has made to design.

The recently completed Bill & Melinda Gates Hall at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, combines the schools’ Computing Science and Information Science departments under one roof. Designed by Morphosis, the facility encourages spontaneous interactions between these two disciplines with common spaces for comingling and transparent partitions that allow views, and daylight, to pass from space to space. The building envelope, a unitized glass curtain wall system, is wrapped in a band of perforated stainless steel panels that forms a dynamic, angular wave pattern across the surface. In addition to creating a sense of movement across the exterior, it serves as a fitting symbol of the contribution that computing has had on the arts and sciences: The architects used advanced digital modeling tools to design the geometry, pattern, and details of this additive layer, and made it to function both as an aesthetic gesture as well as a performance enhancing element of the architecture. “The goal was to establish a consistent level of daylighting throughout the interior,” said Cory Brugger, director of design technology at Morphosis. “We maximized the exterior glazing to get the light coming through. The design of the screen reduces the amount of glare and heat gain and starts to help with the performance of the facade system itself.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Zahner (perforated stainless steel panels), YKK AP (unitized curtain wall), W&W Glass (exterior cladding systems), Erie AP (curtain wall engineering and fabrication), Viracon (glazing), Wasco Products Inc. (skylights)
  • Architect Morphosis
  • Facade Installer W&W Glass
  • Location Ithaca, NY
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System Unitized double-glazed and spandrel curtain wall with exterior perforated stainless steel panels
  • Products YKK YUW 750XT 4 sided SSG Unitized Curtain Wall system, perforated stainless steel panels from Zahner, Viracon VNE 24-63
Located between Cornell’s historic Barton Hall and Hoy Field, Gates Hall fits 100,000 square feet of program in fives stories on a site roughly 150 feet long by 80 feet wide. “It’s a fairly squat building with a large foot print,” said Brugger. “So what we wanted to do was find a way to give some break on the facade.” The metal screen forms a band that covers the second through fourth floors. The first and fifth floors are fully glazed. At the main entrance on the building’s west side there is a large cantilever covering an entry court with some indigenous plantings and sculptural precast concrete “rocks.” Here, the facade becomes an integral part the overall massing of building, breaking down proportions of footprint and creating a sense of motion, giving the sense that structure is coiled to pounce across the road. Morphosis specified a YKK YUW 750XT 4 sided SSG unitized curtain wall system outfitted with a Viracon VNE 24-63 double glazed insulated glass unit. Ithaca does have a heavy winter, and heating days predominate over cooling days for the facility. To optimize the daylight/insulation ratio, the architects intermixed fully glazed panels with insulated spandrel panels. “There’s an alternation between full glazing and spandrel panels that helped us balance the environment and meet our efficiency target,” said Brugger. “It’s not fully glazed everywhere.” The curtain wall’s aluminum mullions are reinforced with steel, giving them the necessary stiffness to support the screen system. Morphosis designed the screen system in its own proprietary software program and used Rhino with Grasshopper to do the visualization. To coordinate fabrication of the panels with Zahner in Kansas City, the architects worked with CATIA and Digital Project. Zahner fabricated the screen panels out of 316 stainless steel. There are 457 panels total, in 13 different types, that bolt back to the vertical mullions at one of three elevations. The perforated panels have an angel hair finish. “It’s a non-directional finish takes away most of the gloss of stainless steel and gives it a little more depth in reflectivity, kind of a clean, matte finish,” said Brugger. “It still has a certain luster and gloss, but it cuts down on glare.” W&W Glass installed the facade, first putting up the YKK curtain wall and then erecting the screen system in a second pass. “We couldn’t unitize the two systems because they’re quite large and differently sized,” said Brugger. “Each stainless panel takes up two curtain wall modules.” The curtain wall modules are 5 feet 9 inches wide, whereas the stainless panels are 10 to 12 feet wide. The panels are set at different angles across the facade depending on solar orientation, with those on the south face at the most obtuse angle to create the deepest ledge for shading. This variation around the building envelope creates visual interest and expresses the computational nature of the design.
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Sturgess and RJC Soar with Glass Skywalk

Parabola cantilever walkway delivers park visitors to the brink.

Concerned that visitors to Canada's national parks were becoming increasingly disengaged from both the experience of the outdoors and the reality of climate change, Parks Canada launched a search for private-sector initiatives to reverse the trend toward drive-through tourism. Brewster Travel Canada answered the call with a limited design competition for a walkable structure in Jasper National Park's Sunwapta Valley. "One of the bus drivers suggested that we do something over this particular gorge, Trickle Creek Canyon—something that could be suspended off the side of the mountain that brought visitors into a more intimate relationship with the Athabasca Glacier and its melting," explained Sturgess Architecture principal Jeremy Sturgess. With design-build team lead PCL Construction Management and structural engineer Read Jones Christoffersen (RJC), Sturgess' firm crafted a cantilevered walkway that, clad in weathering steel and glass, defers to its natural surroundings while providing breathtaking views of the glacier and valley floor. Though not a facade itself, Glacier Skywalk warrants discussion within the context of high-performance building envelopes for its innovative structure and streamlined approach to materials—the "+" in Facades+. Though the expected solution to the competition brief was a suspension bridge or other high-masted element, "we thought as a team that this approach would not be appropriate to the site," recalled Sturgess. "As much as we were going to make something courageous and heroic, we also wanted it to be subtle." RJC's Simon Brown came up with the idea of a parabola cantilever that draws visitors 35 meters beyond the face of the cliff. Sturgess Architecture focused on minimizing the material palette, relying primarily on Corten and glass, plus gabion mats filled with local rocks and concrete on the adjoining interpretive walk. "The idea was that the Corten would emulate the ferric oxide outcropping that you see on the existing mountainside," said Sturgess. "We wanted the whole element to feel fractal and extruded from the mountainside. As much as it was clearly manmade, it was to be as sensitive to the local environment as possible."
  • Facade Manufacturer Beauce Atlas (steel), Josef Gartner (structural glass), Heavy Industries (Corten)
  • Architects Sturgess Architecture, Read Jones Christoffersen (structural engineering)
  • Facade Installer PCL Construction Management
  • Location Jasper National Park, Alberta
  • Date of Completion May 2014
  • System steel parabola cantilever walkway with Corten elements and structural glass floor
  • Products Josef Gartner structural glass, custom Corten elements from Heavy Industries
Glacier Skywalk's signature design element is its glass floor, constructed in three layers—two structural, the third designed to be easily replaced if broken or otherwise damaged. "I'm a little nervous about walking on glass floors," admitted Sturgess. Several times he suggested replacing the glass with an opaque material to save money, but the rest of the team refused to let go. "Normally when I've worked in design-build, the gun is to our head and the finger's on the trigger," said Sturgess. "In this case, every time we suggested, 'We can save money here,' everyone on the design team was so in love with the concept, we couldn't lose anything lightly." Sturgess Architecture swapped Rhino models with PCL, RJC, and Heavy Industries, who formed all of the Corten work, throughout the design development phase. "I've never gone through such an extraordinary hands-on design process working with the actual craftsman of the solution," said Sturgess. "This iterative process of working with the team as we crafted every piece kind of by hand—though on the computer—is what led to the success of the project." In combination with its geologically inspired cladding, Glacier Skywalk's minimal structure delivers an illusion of weightlessness that only adds to the sense of exposure. The curvature of the walkway allowed RJC to install a nearly invisible cable suspension system to counterbalance its outward propulsion. "It expresses the thrust from the mountainside, and it does it in a way that makes it feel like a really integral fit with the [landscape]," said Sturgess. "The success is that it's not too much."
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The Glory of Old Bones
The majority of the I-345 debate has focused on removing the highway. Why aren't we seeing any proposals for creative reuse?
Ryan Flener

Once or twice a week, a few friends and I will make the short hike to Deep Ellum for dinner, beers, concerts, or whatever else we’re currently lacking in downtown Dallas. There’s something exciting about walking east on Main Street where the city begins to disintegrate, almost literally. All of a sudden the I-345 overpass rises noisily, almost violently, as our dream for mobile freedom rings aloud. Beneath the thundering slabs and girders, a cathedral of concrete and steel spans for quite some distance. Of course it’s not always so sacred; there’s broken glass, rocks, vagrants, and any other urban insecurity one might experience, even cars. Still, I-345 stands as a symbol of our Dallas heritage, an Oregon Trail for those seeking individualism in the invented places of Richardson, Frisco, or Irving, especially ones simply passing through.

With the city awaiting additional pricing from TxDOT to repair or demolish the elevated highway, and pending information from the varied politics at play, it could all be gone much sooner than we think. Real estate groups, developers, city planners, and bloggers have initiated a coup to blow it up, ready to light the fuse with each opposing hesitation of its removal. In their defense, the argument for tearing down the mile and a half stretch of highway, which connects I-75 to I-30 and I-35, and revitalizing nearly 250 acres of prime real estate is largely legitimate—and has been well tested in such cities as San Francisco, Portland, Toronto, and Milwaukee, to name only a few.


On the other hand, the projected successes ($4 billion in improvements, $110 million in annual tax revenue, and 25,000 new residents in the downtown area) contain similar consequences of gentrification and relocation similar to those warranted by highway construction, only this time disguised as walkable streets, small businesses, community, or the idea of urban living. As most in Dallas will remember, Victory Park also was marketed as a diverse, hyper-pedestrian dream.

Absent from the predictable highway removal conversations about investments, bonds, and alternative routes of transportation, are ideas for saving the existing highway infrastructure and formal organization, as a catalyst for design. That’s right. What if we didn’t tear it down? Why has so little been offered in the way of reusing the existing infrastructure for developing unique models of urban development; allowing new and existing structures to create something worth having. New is not always better, contrary to popular Texan belief. If anything, such a disposable mindset is far more dangerous. Remember that this conversation is about more than cars and money, as difficult as that may be.

This debate is about the inevitable clash between the Baby Boomers and the Millenials, and the desire for new individual freedoms, for a creative and useful urban resurgence. If there is a pent up demand for identity, proximity, and amenity, then a resourceful built environment plays an imperative role in defining it. There is an opportunity here to break free from quantifiable residential and commercial consumer models, New-Urbanist ideals, and gentrified enclaves for the privileged. In order to reform our isolated desires, an acceptance and cultivation of a common history must occur.

While the architectural history of Dallas may not be as rich as, say, Boston, it doesn’t make its metropolitan infrastructures any less significant. To replace I-345 with another Uptown would be an insulting and unsustainable blow. What about a park large enough to effectively exercise in? What about affordable housing, public restrooms, baths, gardens, markets, or theaters? Isn’t there something more valuable and dramatic in the natural reconciliation of generational histories? Piece by piece, in parallel with the divine opportunity of chance, such a montage is worth investigating, no matter the cost. Do what you want with the skin. Keep the bones.

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Aspen Art Museum
Michael Moran

The new Aspen Art Museum (AAM), deigned by this year’s Pritzker Prize Winner, Shigeru Ban, is not a beautiful building. It does not seek to inspire awe in visitors with its formal qualities, nor even to create a harmonious experience with well thought out proportions. It rather reads as a series of cobbled together solutions to a list of architectural problems; solutions that somehow manage to sit together fairly well, if somewhat awkwardly in places.

The challenge for Ban and his team was to integrate the building respectfully within the built fabric of Aspen while at the same time taking full advantage of the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain setting and providing world-class facilities for displaying an ever-changing array of art. AAM is not a collecting institution. Its director, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, is always on the search for the next upcoming artist, and thus the display spaces had to offer a lot of flexibility. All of this had to be accomplished on a constrained site, only 100 feet by 105 feet, and within Aspen’s 47-foot-high zoning limit.

Shigeru Ban wrapped the Aspen Art Museum in a woven Prodema screen whose warm wood veneer successfully cozies up to the mountain hideaway’s timber and masonry built context. But, it doesn’t quite conceal the architectural problem brooding underneath. Cottle Car Yaw of Basalt, Colorado, is the architect of record; Front Inc. provided facade consulting services; and L’Observatoir International designed the lighting scheme. The timber space frame roof structure was fabricated by Spearhead Timberworks in British Columbia.

Ban optimized the available volume, squeezing in 33,000 square feet, 17,500 of which is exhibition space, by stacking three floors of galleries against the party wall (one below grade, two above); wrapping them in circulation, offices, and support spaces; and enclosing it all in a white metal and glass curtain wall. The top floor is half occupied by an outdoor sculpture garden, half by a café and event space.

Structurally, the building comprises a composite system of three materials, each one doing what it does best. The first two floors are framed in post-tensioned cast-in-pace concrete. This system offered the most efficient floor-to-floor dimensions (about 16 feet), allowing the architects to provide 14-foot-high ceilings (to the bottom of the beam) in the gallery spaces while fitting the building within the zoning height limit. Spindly, exposed structural steel pipe columns in tree-like clusters of three keep the third floor space open and airy and support the third structural system, an exposed timber space frame that makes up the roof.


The timber space frame is, in my mind, the highlight of the architecture, and you can tell that Ban took the most pleasure in working out this problem. It is composed of three types of wood: spruce chords, birch web members, and Douglas fir end caps. The webs have curving profiles that create flat interfaces with the top and bottom chords of the truss. This allowed the connection between web and chord to be made with a single steel screw—as opposed to a gusset plate connection—driven in from above so that it is invisible from below, giving the impression that it is an all-wood structure. Ventilation ducts, sprinklers, and lighting integrate well within the space frame structure.

The street faces of the building (it is a corner lot) are wrapped with a woven Prodema screen whose wood veneer offers a warm, handcrafted expression that successfully cozies up to Aspen’s masonry and timber context. Underneath, however, you can detect an architectural problem, brooding.


The screen is not uniform. Its apertures are larger toward the corner and top of the building. This variable geometry creates a bit of a discordant relationship between the screen and the building it conceals, a condition that is most apparent at night, when light emanating from the interior puts in profile the chaotic layers of rectangles and squares. This shifting geometry provides the best views, out and in, at the corner, where a glass elevator allows visitors to gawk at the surroundings as they ascend or descend, while creating movement in the building when viewed from the street.

A grand stair between the screen and glass curtain wall also shows some movement to the street. It provides access directly to the top of the building. There, the sculpture garden and café can be open to one another or closed off, depending on the weather, by way of a manually operated sliding glass wall. Either way, this space provides rooftop views, which are a rarity in Aspen. Ban, however, directs the view north to the ski slopes, as opposed to east toward Independence Pass and the Continental Divide, which, as locals will attest, is the most impressive sight in Pitkin County.


A second stair just inside the curtain wall, which mirrors the one outside, provides access to the gallery spaces. The idea behind this circulation scheme is that, as on Aspen’s ski slopes, visitors can climb to the top before “sliding” down through the exhibition spaces. But this architectural conceit may be lost on many visitors, in spite of the meaningful view of the slopes, because it is just as easy to enter at the bottom and go up. Ban reportedly at first wanted to tightly control the circulation sequence, allowing only one way to proceed through the museum, but Zuckerman Jacobson put her foot down, explaining that in the U.S.A., especially in the West, people expect a little more freedom of movement.

Another place the collaboration, or perhaps conflict, between Ban and Zuckerman Jacobson shows is in the use of natural light in the galleries. Four out of the six galleries feature some access to daylight, while two are completely artificially lit. Zuckerman Jacobson originally wanted all black box spaces where she could have total control over the lighting, in keeping with at least the past 50 years of curatorial thinking and gallery design in this country. Ban, however, convinced her after a tour of naturally lit gallery spaces that she could have some control while taking advantage of the dynamic qualities of natural light. Art, after all, is created in natural light, Ban’s argument ran. But, as with the muddled circulation concept, the blending of daylight and artificial light here is something of a failure. For one, there is no regular or very successful solution for bringing sunlight in (sometimes it enters from the side, sometimes from strangely aligned skylights). Secondly, what natural light does make it in is more than overpowered by the electrical lighting. Thus the daylighting seems something of an afterthought and—like much of AAM, regrettably—achieves nothing of the gripping synthesis of which there are now many examples in the museum world.

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ASLA announces winners of its 2014 Professional Awards and Student Awards
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has announced this year's winners of its Professional and Student Awards, which honor "top public, commercial, residential, institutional, planning, communications and research projects from across the U.S. and around the world." Each of the winning projects will be featured in the October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine and be officially presented by ASLA at its annual meeting and expo in Denver on November 24th. In total, 34 professional awards were selected out of 600 entries. General Design Category   Award of Excellence  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus Seattle Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Honor Awards Slow Down: Liupanshui Minghu Wetland Park Liupanshui, Ghizhou Province, China Turenscape Gebran Tueni Memorial Beirut, Lebanon Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture Segment 5, Hudson River Park  New York City Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. Salem State University Marsh Hall, Salem, Mass. WagnerHodgson Landscape Architecture Urban Outfitters Headquarters Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia D.I.R.T. Studio Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Grand Teton National Park, WY Hershberger Design for D.R. Horne & Company Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park Queens, NY Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi Low Maintenance Eco-Campus: Vanke Research Center Shenzhen, China Z+T Studio Shoemaker Green University of Pennsylvania Andropogon Associates, Ltd.   Residential Design Category Award of Excellence Woodland Rain Gardens Caddo Parish, La. Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects Honor Awards Hill Country Prospect Centerport, Texas Studio Outside for Sara Story Design Vineyard Retreat Napa Valley, Calif. Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture Le Petit Chalet Southwest Harbor, Maine Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Sky Garden Miami Beach, Fla. Raymond Jungles Inc. West Texas Ranch Marfa, Texas Ten Eyck Landscape Architects Inc. GM House, Bragança Paulista São Paulo, Brazil Alex Hanazaki Paisagismo City House in a Garden Chicago McKay Landscape Architects   Analysis & Planning Category Award of Excellence Midtown Detroit Techtown District Detroit Sasaki Associates Inc. Honor Awards The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization for Little Rock Little Rock, Ark. The University of Arkansas Community Design Center and Marlon Blackwell Architect Devastation to Resilience: The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center Houston Design Workshop Inc., Aspen, and Reed/Hilderbrand Zidell Yards District-Scale Green Infrastructure Scenarios Portland, Ore. GreenWorks, PC Yerba Buena Street Life Plan San Francisco CMG Landscape Architecture Unified Ground: Union Square - National Mall Competition Washington, D.C. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Communications Category Award of Excellence The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley The Cultural Landscape Foundation Honor Awards Freehand Drawing and Discovery: Urban Sketching and Concept Drawing for Designers James Richards, FASLA, published by John Wiley & Sons Inc. Monk's Garden: A Visual Record of Design Thinking and Landscape Making Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. Garden, Park, Community, Farm Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Lands Louise A. Mozingo, ASLA, published by MIT Press   The Landmark Award Norman B. Leventhal Park at Post Office Square Boston Halvorson Design Partnership Inc.
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Fading Within Memory
Kresge Auditorium by Eero Sarinen at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Courtesy J Paul Getty Trust

Twentieth-Century Building Materials:
History and Conservation

Jester, Thomas C. Jester, editor
J. Paul Getty Trust, $55

Twentieth-Century Building Materials: History and Conservation is a compilation of papers sorted into seven parts: metals, concrete, wood and plastics, masonry, glass, linoleum, and roofing, siding, and walls. When first published by the National Park Service in 1995, it was one of the only references on the topic. That same year, the Historic Preservation Education Foundation in collaboration with the National Park Service organized the first national conference on the topic, Preserving the Recent Past, from which a series of papers emerged. This was followed in 2000 with Preserving the Recent Past 2 and its associated papers.

Clearly, as mid-century Modernist buildings age, there is a need to better understand the significance of the 20th century in terms of its impact on our built heritage, but also as regards the conservation of its construction materials. These were often experimental in nature, and have now also proven to be less durable. With the acknowledgement of specific 20th-century structures as heritage, there also arise questions of ethics and philosophy of treatment, given the fact that there is typically a wealth of archival material, and the buildings were well photographed. In addition, the original designers are more likely to still be alive or recently deceased, so there tends to be a lot more information about 20th-century heritage than other periods.

Polychromatic lobby ceiling (1934, John J. Early) of the Department of Justice building, Washington, D. C. (left). Sheetrock: The Fireproof Wallboard, United States Gypsum Company, 1937 (right).

Since the mid-1990s, when this book was first published, several factors have resulted in an increased interest in the built environment of the 20th century. First is age. Most of these buildings are approaching 50 years or older, enough time and distance to create a new appreciation for the aesthetic and technical achievements of 20th-century architecture. Second is the failure of the materials used in modern architecture, requiring maintenance or replacement. Third is the rise of organizations and initiatives focused on 20th-century heritage. Docomomo (Documentation of the Modern Movement) was founded in 1988 in the Netherlands, and has chapters around the world, as well as annual international conferences and a journal. The International Committee on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) formed its International Scientific Committee on 20th-Century Heritage (ISC20C) in 2005, which has held annual symposia and published papers ever since. The Association for Preservation Technology International (APTI) has had for some time a Technical Committee on Modern Heritage, and published a special issue of APT Bulletin devoted to the conservation of modernism (Vol. 41, 2010). The World Heritage Committee has highlighted the gap in designation of 20th-century heritage, and as a result several important sites have been recently included on the World Heritage list. And since 2011, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has become involved through their Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI), which organized an expert colloquium in March 2014. The GCI has long had a counterpart program focused on modern materials conservation in artwork.

Prefabriaction Lustron house (1950, Morris Beckman) in Chesterton, Indiana.

This book, however, remains an important resource, because little research has been accomplished in the nearly 20 years since it was first issued other than the publication of case studies. The book was out of print and has been re-issued by the J. Paul Getty Trust as part of its program to promote activities related to the conservation of the recent past. Although the papers remain the same as the earlier edition, and are not confined to materials of the Modernist Movement, the historical research is still valid, as are the approaches recommended to individual materials and their conservation. The papers’ authors are mostly still very active in the field and some are now considered authorities on the topic.

Beginning with Metals, the papers cover aluminum, monel, nickel silver, stainless steel, and weathering steel. Under Concrete, concrete block, cast stone, reinforced concrete, shotcrete, architectural precast concrete, and pre-stressed concrete are discussed. Wood and Plastics includes fiberboard, decorative plastic laminates, plywood, glued-laminated timber, and fiber-reinforced plastic. The section on Masonry covers structural-clay tile, terra cotta, gypsum block, and tile, thin-stone veneer, and simulated masonry. For Glass, there are papers on plate glass, prismatic glass, glass block, structural glass, and spandrel glass. The Flooring section contains articles on linoleum, rubber tile, cork tile, terrazzo, and vinyl tile. Lastly, Roofing, Siding, and Walls covers asphalt shingles, porcelain enamel, acoustical materials, gypsum board, and building sealants. In addition, there is an extensive bibliography and sources for research. The book is well illustrated and indexed.

The Modern Diner (1940) in Pawktucket, Rhode Island.

Twentieth-Century Building Materials: History and Conservation continues to be extremely useful for architectural historians and researchers, technical professionals involved with the care of the 20th-century built environment, as well as owners and managers of such buildings. It is well written and organized in such a way that it is easy to find information on specific materials. Where it falls short is in the fact that it mainly covers individual components, whereas many of the products used in 20th-century construction are systems—think of glazed curtain walls as an example. Here, those of us who work in this field must rely on our own experience or review of similar case studies. But the problem with case studies is that they tend to be published soon after they are implemented, and if over time the interventions fail, the authors almost never re-evaluate and publish the failure. The book’s other shortcoming is the lack of discussion on philosophy and ethics of intervention, although, as the title claims, the book is focused on history and conservation. Still it is important to acknowledge that technical solutions should be based on programmatic strategies that involve some thought about the philosophy of preservation for a given site.


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Red-Rock-Inspired Headquarters by ajc

Earth-toned GFRC panels and contrasting metal wrap Petzl's new North American hub.

When Petzl executives decided to move the climbing and caving equipment company's North American headquarters from Clearfield to West Valley City, Utah, they sought an opportunity not just to expand, but to design a facility that would reflect the brand's mission. "The two words we kept hearing from them were verticality and light," recalled ajc architects founding principal Jill A. Jones. "The types of products they design really have to deal with the vertical world." Working with a southwestern palette inspired by Petzl corporation founder and president Paul Petzl's recent visits to Mesa Verde National Park and Machu Picchu, the architects designed a combination administrative, training, and distribution center whose mesa-like bottom stories and punctuating tower appear as if carved out of desert rock.
  • Facade Manufacturer Tuscan Stoneworx (GFRC), Drexel Metals (metal), Cornerstone Concrete (concrete), B&D Glass (glazing and curtain wall)
  • Architects ajc architects
  • Facade Installer Tuscan Stoneworx (GFRC), Superior Roofing (metal), Sahara (general contractor)
  • Location West Valley City, UT
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System hybrid stone-backed GFRC panels, metal panels, tilt-up concrete
  • Products custom GFRC panels from Tuscan Stoneworx, Drexel Metals DMC panels, tilt-up concrete by Cornerstone Concrete
Given Paul Petzl's interest in the continent's arid landscapes, natural stone cladding would have seemed an obvious choice. But "to use stone would have been terribly expensive," said Jones—especially given the building's size, 80,000 gross square feet. "Getting a lot of stone in those larger panels would have been cost-prohibitive." Instead, the architects looked to GFRC, and worked with Tuscan Stoneworx's Dave Nicholson to develop a hybrid system of stone-backed GFRC panels. Rather than being hung on the building, the panels are adhered directly to it, thus avoiding any breaks in the thermal barrier. To perfect the look of the GFRC, the architects did no less than a dozen color studies before selecting three red-orange tones for application. The panels were sandblasted on site to render the color and texture more naturalistic. Nicholson helped ajc customize every aspect of the panel system, from color and texture to corner installation. "I don't know if he'll ever do that again," remarked Jones. The designers clad the tower and a bump-out over the front door in dark grey metal from Drexel Metals. "The tower itself was a sensitive area, because Petzl did something similar in their home headquarters in Crolles, France," said Jones. "It kind of felt dark and cold; we wanted to bring a lot of daylight into the space." The architects performed a series of daylighting studies, "to make sure we had daylighting opportunities in every occupied space." This led to the installation of high-performance glass on both sides of the office block to avoid glare. For the warehouse area, ajc chose tilt-up concrete. But as with the GFRC, achieving a natural look took some ingenuity. "We wanted not to paint the concrete, to get a more organic look," said Jones. "But staining the concrete was a challenge, because the form liners leave a natural coating on the panels." Contractor Sahara experimented with various solutions once the panels were in place to find a stain that the concrete would accept. Petzl's new North American headquarters is a fitting base camp for a company committed to pushing the limits of human exploration. Both inside and out—from its window-lit multi-story indoor climbing and training wall to its human-made, red-rock-inspired envelope—the building embodies a balance between reverence for the natural world, and celebration of the technology that makes that world a little more knowable.
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The Golden Ticket
Denver's expanded Union Station.
robert polidori

In cities around the U.S., train stations are being converted to multi-modal transit hubs anchoring impressive new neighborhoods, and private developers are cashing in. John Gendall rides the rails to skyrocketing real estate prices.

One of great rites of passage for most Americans, from baby boomers to Generation Y, was the trip, often on a sixteenth birthday, to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the first driver’s license. But research from automotive data company Polk shows the share of car purchases made by young adults (ages 18–34) plummeted by 30 percent between 2007 and 2011, while the share for adults aged 35–44 fell by 25 percent. Younger Americans, it would seem, are not as eager to get licensed up at the soonest opportunity. Not only has this sent carmakers scrambling to render the driver’s seat with all the trappings of a smartphone—the commodity that young adults actually do covet—but it has also instigated a series of land use trends that are reshaping American cities, and train stations are taking center stage.

“Teenagers and young adults aren’t even getting driver’s licenses,” said Amtrak chief of corridor development Bob LaCroix, “These trends are making our stations very interesting to the real estate community.” ‘Interesting’ would be one way to put it. ‘Potentially very lucrative’ would be another.

Opened this summer, Denver’s revitalized Union Station has stimulated urban development in its surrounding areas as well as along the transit lines that feed into it. Real estate prices near the station have jumped from around $435 per square foot to $600 per square foot.
robert polidori

New Yorkers will be familiar with this effect from Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, where the Related Companies and Forest City Ratner are, respectively, developing on the formerly uncovered rail yards of Penn Station, in Midtown, and Atlantic Terminal, in Brooklyn. But in cities across the country—Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles—developers and municipalities are making serious investment in transit and transit-oriented develompents. “Every major metro area in the country, really, is doing a pretty substantial build out of its transit systems,” said Rachel MacCleery, Senior Vice President at the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Since developing suburbs by the swath is becoming less tenable for economic and environmental reasons, municipalities and developers are more tactically considering land use within city centers. In Philadelphia, for example, the main train station, 30th Street Station (which happens to be the third busiest station in Amtrak’s system) is ringed with significant real estate anchors: the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and, just across the Schuylkill River, City Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Center City district. Though the station itself is an impressive historic structure and though it has this orbit of vibrant neighborhoods, its immediate context leaves something to be desired. One local architect, who wished to remain unnamed, called it “the hole in the middle of the donut.” Amtrak, which owns the station and over 80 acres of rail yards, including—and this is important—the air rights over them, is teaming up with neighbors Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust to develop a comprehensive master plan for the station and its context. To do this, Amtrak tapped SOM, Parsons Brinckerhoff, OLIN, and HR&A Advisors in May 2014 to undertake the two-year planning process.

Plan for a new Los Angeles Union Station.
Courtesy Gruen Associates

Real estate professionals and transportation advocates point to Washington DC’s NoMa district as a particularly compelling precedent. Close to Union Station, the area, once dominated by parking lots and warehouses, had long suffered from high vacancy rates. In 2004, though, an infill transit stop was added to the Washington Metro commuter rail line, instigating a surge of real estate activity. Now, Washington is looking to build on that success with a redevelopment of its Union Station. Working with the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maryland Transit Administration, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Amtrak engaged Parsons Brinckerhoff and HOK to author a 15-to-20-year master plan that will triple the passenger capacity in the station, double the train service, and plan for real estate development on and around the station.

For Washington D.C.’s Union Station, Amtrak hired Parsons Brinckerhoff and HOK to author a master plan that will tripple passenger capacity, double train service, and plan for real estate development around the station.
courtesy hok

The Washington project highlights one of the challenges of working with historic train stations in urban contexts: they come with what LaCroix called “serious constraints.” Unlike the suburbs, which, for the most part, can be transformed into buildable lots with the sweep of an earthmover, train stations typically demand greater finesse. “There tends to be more complexity to transit-related developments,” said Eric Rothman, president and transportation expert at HR&A Advisors. “There are always very important operational concerns.” As a simple case-in-point, LaCroix explained, “we can’t expand south because there is a little something called the U.S. Capitol.” Each of the other cardinal directions come with their own inviolable obstacles, so the Parsons Brinckerhoff/HOK plan goes below grade, but, LaCroix is quick to point out, “in an elegant way—not a Penn Station way.”

courtesy hok

In Seattle, where ZGF Architects completed a restoration of King Street Station in 2013, Daniels Real Estate is undertaking the so-called North Lot Development, a four-acre, 1.5 million-square-foot mixed-use project directly adjacent to the station. Though he identified the transit hub as the catalyst for the project, Daniels president Kevin Daniels conceded, “working with transit is a challenge,” citing the intricacies of moving people through infrastructure, between heavy rail and light rail, rail and bus, regional busses and local busses. “Developers can tend to get very myopic from our side, and transit folks can get very myopic from their side,” he said. “While it might be easiest to line up busses in front of restaurants, that doesn’t work from the development side. The design has to find common ground with what works for them and what works for us.”

Amtrak has partnered with Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust to develop a master plan for the area immediately surrounding Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.
Courtesy SOM

Cases abound of historically preserved train stations that contribute little to community and economic development. What these cases demonstrate is that architectural attention on the station itself needs to be coupled with a serious commitment to the underlying transportation infrastructure. While the historic restoration of Seattle King Street Station was a critical element for the success of the project, that alone was not sufficient to anchor the neighborhood. The city and its transit agencies have committed to investing in transit and undertaking the gritty, long-term work of transforming the historic building into a multi-modal hub, orchestrating heavy rail, light rail, and local and regional buses.

Courtesy SOM

Cutting the ribbon on its transit hub this summer, Denver Union Station has become an important model for other transit-related developments. Having effectively reshaped the metropolitan experience in Denver, the project has stimulated urban development both at and around the station itself, but also along the network of transit routes that the station catalyzes. The Denver Union Station Neighborhood Development Company, a joint entity between developers East West Partners and Continuum Partners, has essentially shifted the city’s center of gravity toward the train station, which, for decades, had been dangling on the margins of Denver’s downtown area. The project included the historic preservation of the station itself, a robust public investment in transit, but also a real commitment to neighborhood building. Where Amtrak passengers once looked out onto acres of dusty landscape is now in the midst of becoming over five million square feet of commercial, residential, and civic space spread over nearly 20 acres. Several restaurants and a new hotel opened this summer. A Whole Foods is on the way. “It’s an incredibly complex station, but we’ve created a neighborhood, not just a transit station,” said Chris Frampton, a managing partner at East West Partners. Private developers play a fundamental role in realizing these transformations. “We typically seek developers through competitive processes,” said LaCroix, acknowledging that Amtrak is not in the best position to build neighborhoods. “When transportation agencies do the developing, they do it wonderfully, but they do it for trains,” said Frampton, making the case for private development to help in making neighborhoods.

“Transit investments are important, but they are only one part of making a neighborhood,” said Rothman. “The stations should be as inviting a place as possible to non-transit riders and transit riders alike. It needs to be a civic asset, not just a transit asset,” said Rothman. “Transit itself is not going to make a neighborhood.”

This is not just an act of civic altruism. “The marketplace is paying,” said MacCleery. In Denver, where the property leases had peaked at $435 per square foot, East West and Continuum recently leased One Union Station at $600 per square foot.

With this arrangement between transit agencies, private developers, and architects, everyone stands to profit. “We don’t have to own the real estate to get value out of it,” said LaCroix. “Smart, good development works for us. We can develop a very symbiotic relationship with private developers.”