Search results for "Facades+ AM"

Placeholder Alt Text

Kowloon Bay Crescendo

Hong Kong’s newest opera house makes waves with an aluminum fin facade
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
The Xiqu Cultural Center, located in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district, was developed as a regional hub for traditional Chinese opera. The project, designed by Vancouver and Hong Kong–based architecture firm Revery Architecture, was inspired by the diaphanous theater curtains. About 13,000 curved aluminum fins, arranged as a series of waves, clad all of the structure's elevations. The project rises as a box-like volume enclosing a multi-story entrance atrium and performance spaces. The flowing character of the facade, paired with subtle openings at each corner, produces a dynamic enclosure that floods the interior with natural light. Costing over $300 million, the project is the first of dozens of cultural centers planned for the area surrounding the newly opened West Kowloon railway station.
  • Facade Manufacturer & Installer SINGYES/MRW
  • Architects Revery Architcture
  • Facade Consultants Front Inc.
  • Location Hong Kong
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Custom-unitized curtainwall and rainscreen aluminum panel system
  • Products Marine-grade aluminum alloy 5754
Every panel is of a similar dimension, approximately 8-feet wide and 20-feet tall, and is composed of CNC-cut marine-grade aluminum. Because of the marine-grade aluminum, the facade is capable of withstanding the intensely humid environment of Hong Kong, which naturally corrodes weaker aluminum products. Venelin Kokalov, principal-in-charge of Revery Architecture, said the goal of projecting a natural appearance was crucial to the design team. “The original design was based on copper, which proved to be too expensive. This propelled the search for ways to use a more common material like aluminum and a means to bring out its natural qualities.” To this point, the aluminum was glass-bead blasted rather than painted or glazed with a coating. The facade's fins are structurally glazed to a steel-reinforced aluminum frame and are further supported by intermittent welded studs. The aluminum frame is, in turn, hung off the primary structure with three-way adjustable unitized curtain wall brackets. Working with facade consultant Front Inc. and manufacturer SINGYES/MRW, the design team developed a parametric model to ensure the utmost cost-effective design, fabrication, and installation methods for the facade. The aluminum half-pipes are essentially cut in two to create two identical pieces, each installed with their flat ends facing each other.  Following the fabrication and bead-blasting of the fins, Revery constructed a full-scale mock-up of a facade section for review. "It was only after viewing the full-scale mock-up that we, together with the client, were convinced that this was the right material, and the stainless steel brackets were further modified to reduce the scale of the bracket," continued Kokalov. "We were pleasantly surprised at how much the fins’ appearance varies in different light conditions, seeming to change from grey to pink to gold depending on the ambient light."
 
Placeholder Alt Text

What is a facade?

Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas contemplate the emotions behind architecture at Facades+ New York
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
As two of the foremost contemporary Italian architects, Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas know a thing or two about the trends reshaping international architecture today. As the day-one morning keynote speakers at AN’s Facades+ New York conference on April 4, the veteran design duo spoke about their four decades of experience creating boundary-breaking projects across the globe, why the right materials help evoke positive emotions in their buildings, and why they reject the term “facade.” Over 500 AEC practitioners gathered inside the Metropolitan Pavilion to hear the Fuksases, founders of Studio Fuksas, present the details behind 20 structures that for them, define the firm’s design sensibilities and best demonstrate its vast portfolio of building typologies and structural forms. “What is a facade for us?” Massimiliano Fuksas asked the crowd. “We don’t like the name ‘facade.’ We’ve never done a facade in our lives, much less just a plan.” Fuksas explained that a building’s exterior is simply something that the architect discovers as the project concept develops with the design. He said a piece of architecture is like a sculpture that is drawn from a mass and is formed through research, trial, and error until a final work of art is realized. To Massimiliano Fuksas, the end result is something mysterious. One thing that the architects do aim to have control over is emotion. In the case of Studio Fuksas’s projects located in dense urban environments, such as the 2010 Admirant Entrance Building in the Netherlands or the 2010 Rome-EUR Convention Center, the light and surrounding contexts reflected through the glass curtain walls project a happy tone for visitors both outside and inside the buildings. They expose the buildings’ skeletal envelopes, which allow people to clearly see the structures’ raw materials. “For the convention center, we built a container using a steel structure and a double glass facade that encloses the cloud, which you can see from the outside,” said Massimiliano. Studio Fuksas’s 2009 St. Paolo Parish Complex in Foligno, Italy, though a concrete cube, still utilizes light through unique cutouts that don’t fully brighten the entire interior, but instead create a thoughtful, soft environment for reflection. Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas noted that the facade of the chapel is sliced at the bottom with a glass entrance. A visitor’s gaze moves from one side to the other side of the building in an effort to understand the windows across the various faces. Prior to designing the church in Central Italy, the Fuksases completed the massive, New Milan Trade Fair of Rho-Pero, which features pavilions of glass and mirrored stainless steel. The "veil," an undulating spinal column that covers 505,000 square feet atop the elongated building, is reminiscent of natural landscapes like waves, dunes, and hills. “Here we used a different kind of facade on the central axis,” said Massimiliano Fuksas. “When you pass through the stainless steel parts of the building to the glass, you feel happy. This is like sunshine.”   One of the most important components of Studio Fuksas’s work is sustainability. Details are designed to boost energy savings and reduce carbon emissions throughout buildings' lifetimes. Of course, this is a key aspect of designing advanced facades, and one that all of the Facades+ New York speakers showcased through their work. The Gensler team behind the recently completed renovation of Manhattan’s Ford Foundation building, along with Heintges Consulting Architects & Engineers, spoke about how to best maintain and improve the envelopes of mid-century icons. Representatives from Columbia University, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and Permasteelisa Group discussed the newest additions to the university’s Manhattanville campus, all which have vitreous skins. Toshiko Mori, who gave the day-one afternoon keynote speech, challenged the crowd by expanding the topic of facades to the greater building envelope and the importance of the fifth facade, the roof. All these exterior elements, she explained, have a monumental impact on the performance and identity of a piece of architecture. Other symposium talks featured experts in net-zero building enclosures, climate responsive facades, and the changing international regulations in envelope construction. Juergen Riehm, founding principal of 1100 Architect, served as the co-chair of Facades+ New York and moderator for every panel.
Placeholder Alt Text

Acquisition Central

Michel Rojkind named senior vice president of architecture at The We Company
Mexican architect Michel Rojkind, founder of Rojkind Arquitectos, has been hired as the senior vice president of architecture at WeWork’s parent corporation, The We Company. His first project? Overseeing the design and construction of a ground-up, 200,000-square-foot coworking building in Bentonville, Arkansas, with the company’s chief architect, Bjarke Ingels. Moving forward, Rojkind will be involved with all ground-up projects at the company. The We Company and WeWork have expanded rapidly in the last few years and acquired the help of a number of high-profile architects and designers in the process; just two weeks ago, the company announced that it had hired Dror Benshetrit for its future cities initiative. WeWork founders Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey have never been shy about their ambition to expand into smart cities, schools, gyms, full neighborhoods, banking, and more. The Arkansas development, The We Company’s first project in the state, will provide space for up to 3,200 employees as well as retail and communal areas. No design details have been released as of yet, but Rojkind Arquitectos is known for its impressive and playful, but still monumental, facades, so it remains to be seen whether Rojkind’s first project for The We Company will keep to that aesthetic. "The We Company will provide to the project its fully integrated platform including core and shell design," The We Company said in a statement, "construction, and management expertise to service small and medium-sized businesses as well as to tap the area's large enterprise community."
Placeholder Alt Text

Janus-Faced

1100 Architect blends the new and old with the sensitive use of fiber-cement boards
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
1100 Architect's East Side Lofts is located in the Osthafen, or East Harbor district, of Frankfurt, Germany. Heavily damaged during World War II, the district is composed of historical vestiges and contemporary infill. The East Side Lofts effectively combines the two with a restoration of the landmarked Lencoryt Building and a six-story addition clad in fiber-cement boards. The imposing massing of the Lencoryt Building—a former office and textile factory—is enlivened by four-story Corinthian columns, classical detailing, and generous fenestration, and topped by a soaring mansard roof. At first glance, the asymmetrical location of the principal entrance suggests something is awry with the historic building. It is, in fact, incomplete, and would have been twice its size had World War I not drained the country of building resources and labor.
  • Facade Manufacturer Eternit Schueco
  • Architects 1100 Architect
  • Facade Installer Popiolek Fassaden Metallbau Wolf
  • Location Frankfurt, Germany
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System Single fiber cement rain screen
  • Products Eternit Fiber Cement, Schueco Aluminum Storefront
"Our addition doubled the size of that building (bringing it to scale at which it was originally designed)," said 1100 Architect Founding Principal Juergen Riehm. "The form responds directly to that historic structure, adapting the shape, scale, and proportions of the original, but rendering it in contemporary language." Located adjacent to the bustling port of Frankfurt, it was imperative that the cladding of the new addition obstruct unwanted sound cascading off the waterways. 1100 Architect achieved this objective with an interplay of toned fiber-cement panels and recessed window bays highlighted with yellow window reveals for visual effect. In line with the 1100 Architect's portfolio of high-performance facades, the design of the East Side Lofts followed stringent sustainable techniques. Reihm continued, "together, with the manufacturer, we designed the envelope of the addition as a cohesive system—a single rainscreen that encloses the facades and roof." To reduce the carbon footprint of the project, the design team also sourced the concrete from Eternit's facilities approximately 60 miles south of Frankfurt. The construction of the contemporary addition was accompanied by the painstaking restoration of the Lencoryt Building. The design team, collaborating with the Frankfurt Landmarks Department, pored through archival drawings and imagery to determine the historic structure's original detailing. Based on historical evidence, masonry was repaired, window frames rebuilt, and mosaics relaid. Conference Co-Chair Juergen Riehm will be joining a panel, “Facade Syntax: Changing Context and International Regulations,” at The Architect’s Newspaper’s upcoming Facades+ New York conference, a two-day event at the beginning of April focused on the design and performance of facades.
Placeholder Alt Text

CU soon

This Arizona medical school blends into the desert with a folded copper facade
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
Located on the northern border of Downtown Phoenix, Arizona, sits a new medical research building for the University of Arizona. The 10-story Phoenix Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building (BSPB), designed by CO Architects, joins their preexisting structure on the Biomedical Campus to combine lecture halls, research facilities, and public functions. The design of the building’s facade is intended to blend into the Arizona desert landscape with folded and perforated copper panels. The building rises immediately adjacent to CO Architects' Health Sciences Education Building, with the tightly packed nature of the campus serving as a passive shading device for both public and interior spaces. Additionally, the building runs along an east-west axis to reduce solar exposure during the morning and afternoon.
  • Facade Manufacturer & Installer Kovach Building Enclosures
  • Architects CO Architects
  • Associate Architects Ayers Saint Gross
  • Contractors DPR Construction Sundt Construction
  • Structural Engineers John A. Martin & Associates
  • Energy & Environmental Design Atelier Ten
  • Location Phoenix, AZ
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Copper rainscreen and sunshade
  • Products Custom-fabricated copper panels
For the design of the building's envelope, CO Architects analyzed and incorporated the natural features of the surrounding Sonoran Desert. Specifically, folds within the copper panels are intended to reflect the physical traits of the Saguaro Cactus. The skin of the cactus undulates as a means of self-shading so the successive floors of panels on the facade protrude to mimic geological striations while also shading bands of fenestration below. Notably, the copper skin is located two inches from the structure's thermal barrier, effectively wicking away heat by serving as an enveloping chimney. In total, nearly 4,800 panels weighing approximately 295,000 pounds wrap the building. According to the design team, one of the greatest challenges of the project was creating a semi-standardized cladding that visually remained unique. "How do we create a vision, a geological imprint onto the building," said CO Architects' Principal Arnold Swanborn. "How do we create a pattern that was not repetitious?" To this effect, the design team generated six groups of panel types—each is comprised of four modules of the same height and width. Modules within specific panel types were alternated to display a breadth of visual striations. Kovach Building Enclosures, based out of Arizona, manufactured and installed the facade panels. Remarkably, over 90 percent of the cladding was fabricated with recycled copper—ranging from multi-ton ingots to gauged coils. According to Swanborn, the manufacturer effectively "negotiated between what our dream was, and what was feasible." To this effect, the design team utilized BIM software to generate 3-D models of the panels for Kovach to analyze. Over the course of the nine months, the manufacturer detailed each panel via a brake press, relying on a team of two to operate the machinery.
Placeholder Alt Text

Zumth(ingm)or(e)

Peter Zumthor lightens and shortens LACMA design
Peter Zumthor's office has released new renderings of its new building for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). In this latest update, the building's amorphous "canopy" level still sprawls across Wilshire Boulevard, and several pavilions still connect the upper level to the plaza, but now those pavilions are shorter and do not rise above the upper level. The building's material also appears to have been toned down; previous renderings showed striations on the pavilions' exterior, but now all facades seem to be blank concrete. The building's color has come a long way since the building was conceived as a kind of oil slick, referencing the local tar pits. Originally, the building was a sort of black blob, but over the past couple of years, that color seems to have been phased out. The sprawling elevated floor has remained throughout the project's development. The new building will replace an existing William Pereira–designed structure and is scheduled to be finished in 2023.
Placeholder Alt Text

alpine views

This Swiss cancer institute keeps out the sun with a continuous aluminum screen
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
Behnisch Architekten's AGORA Pôle de Recherche Sur le Cancer in Lausanne, Switzerland, overlooks the historic core of the centuries-old city from a prominent ridgeline within the city center, contorting itself into multiple planes of curtain wall shaded by a continuous band of aluminum apertures. As an approximately 240,000-square-foot cancer research institute, the complex's program calls for easily navigable and well-illuminated corridors linking offices and research spaces for hundreds of practitioners. Additionally, the central meeting place of the facility—dubbed "AGORA" in homage to the ancient Greek sphere of public assembly—is topped with a semi-translucent ETFE canopy. "AGORA was our first effort at developing a stationary, responsive solar shading system, which developed out of the original competition design," said Behnisch Partner Robert Matthew Noblett. "The concept is essentially moving the sophisticated technology involved in responding to solar angles that change throughout the day and year and deploying it on the design side in the form of parametric modeling and fabrication, optimizing shading elements according to orientation and season."
  • Facade Manufacturer & Installer Sottas SA, Bulle
  • Architects Behnisch Architekten
  • Facade Consultants Emmer Pfenninger Partner Transsolar KlimaEngineering
  • Location Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Window hinges in plaster facade with folded aluminum panels as sun protection
  • Products Schueco Fenster-Systeme
The second skin of the building consists of a continuous aluminum screen that runs across the underlying glazed facade. Each of the facade's nine distinct planes is shaded with a unique variation of the screen; the skin on the north has relatively large openings while that on the south is more constrained. The panels consist of two folded aluminum pieces joined together to resist bending. For the shading requirements of the building, Behnisch Architekten developed a set of parametric guidelines for Rhino, Grasshopper, and AutoCAD. The length of the "P" line, the protruding-perforated aluminum flap, was determined by the "V" plane perpendicular to the facade, and the "H" plane parallel to the facade. After producing scores of digital simulations for sun and heat protection, light enhancement and glare, the design team built multiple physical models that were tested under artificial lighting. "The optimization of the facade is controlled both by the aperture and its orientation, which respond to the orientation of the glass surface and its type of glass," said the design team. "The same solar performance can be achieved for every given angle of the sun with an array of different geometries that offer all the different view openings and qualities."       The second skin is located approximately 2.6 feet from the inner facade, allowing for the insertion of a maintenance catwalk and over half-a-foot of space for the secondary structure supporting the shading panels. The secondary structure is composed of a series of diagonal steel rails running parallel to each other. Every short end of the panels are connected to the steel rails via simple fastener connections. Armatures extending from the inner facade support both the catwalk and the steel rail system. According to the design team, one of the greatest challenges of the project was the connection of the bands of aluminum apertures across nine unique facade planes. To maintain the visual continuity of the second skin, Behnisch Architekten collaborated with manufacturer and installer Sottas SA to produce a unique seam of aluminum pieces for each corner. In the coming years, Behnisch will monitor the performance of the complex's enclosure system. Lessons learned from the study of the structure will inform the design of similar systems for ongoing projects such as Harvard's School of Engineering an Applied Sciences and the ARENA HQ in Germany. Robert Matthew Noblett will be joining a panel, "Facade Syntax: Changing Context and International Regulations," at The Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ New York conference, a two-day event at the beginning of April focused on the design and performance of facades.
   
   
Placeholder Alt Text

The Bigger Apple

Facades+ New York will explore trends reshaping international architecture
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
On April 4 and 5, Facades+ is returning to New York for the eighth year in a row. Organized by The Architect's Newspaper, the New York conference brings together leading AEC practitioners for a robust full-day symposium with a second day of intensive workshops led by manufacturers, architects, and engineers. Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas, and Toshiko Mori are respectively leading the morning and afternoon keynote addresses for the symposium. In between the keynote addresses, representatives from Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Permasteelisa, Cooper Union, Gensler, Heintges, Atelier 10, Transsolar, Walter P. MooreSchüco, Frener & Reifer, and Behnisch Architekten, will be on hand to discuss recently completed innovative projects. New York-and-Frankfurt based practice 1100 Architect is co-chairing the conference. In anticipation of the conference, 1100 Architect's Juergen Riehm sat down with AN to discuss the firm's ongoing work, the conference's program, and trends reshaping New York City's built environment. The Architect's Newspaper: It is safe to say that New York City is undergoing a tremendous period of growth. What do you perceive to be the most exciting trends within the city? Juergen Riehm: You’re right; New York City is undergoing big change and growth. I would say that one of the big drivers of that change—and one of the exciting trends—is the investment in the city’s public spaces. There has been such transformation along the waterfronts and in parks across all five boroughs, and that has really catalyzed growth. We have worked with several city agencies for many years and in different ways, including with the Department of Parks & Recreation, which has been an exciting partnership, contributing to these changes. One of the projects we currently have in design for NYC Parks is a new community center in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. There, we are designing a 33,000-square-foot community center. The facade will perform in a number of ways. Since it is a community center, we want it to be as open and transparent as possible, and it also needs to be robust and durable. The building is on track to meet the city’s new sustainability standards LL31/32 and LEED Gold. There has been so much attention on new large-scale developments like Hudson Yards or the supertall towers in Midtown, but one of the other exciting trends right now is the renewed attention on optimizing the performance of existing buildings. It is something we will address during Facades+ NYC, but there is great work happening now on restorations of historic buildings—at the Ford Foundation or the United Nations, for example—that not only addresses decades of wear and tear, but that also brings these structures up to full 21st-century performance standards. AN: 1100 Architect is based in both New York and Frankfurt. What are the greatest benefits of operating a trans-Atlantic practice? JR: Our practice has always been deeply rooted in New York—just as it has also always had an international footprint. From our earliest days, we delivered projects overseas, so it seems like part of 1100 Architect’s DNA to have an ongoing dialogue with other geographies. We launched our Frankfurt office about 15 years ago, and, as you suggest, it does bring benefits. In general, we find that it has a reciprocal sharpening effect, with each location informing the other with different materials, technologies, and delivery methods. AN: Which projects are 1100 Architect currently working on, or recently completed, that demonstrate the firm's longstanding demonstration of sustainable enclosures? JR: Well, the NYC Parks community center in East Flatbush is a good example. It’s an exciting project in many ways—including the fact that we are designing it to the City’s new LL31/32 sustainability standards. In every way, we are really pushing for optimal performance, and the high-performance envelope plays an integral role toward that end. We were recently awarded a contract with the U.S. Department of State, so we are poised to begin working on diplomatic facilities around the world, so the safety and security of facade systems will be a paramount consideration. In Germany, we are renovating a 19,000-seat soccer stadium and adding a new training facility, using an innovative and high-performance channel-glass facade. We recently completed a Passive House–certified kindergarten there, too, which involved a high-performance facade. AN: Are there any techniques and materials used in Germany or the EU that should be adopted in the United States? JR: In Germany, I find that there is a more closely integrated relationship between government, the building industry, and the architectural profession. With environmental standards, for example, the goals set by the government are quite ambitious, and it has resulted in a closely integrated process of meeting those goals. In this moment of deregulation in the U.S., it seems like a good time to consider the value of the government’s role in moving toward energy efficiency. AN: Where do you see the industry heading in the coming years? JR: By necessity, I see it moving toward higher standards of energy performance. Climate science is calling for it and the marketplace is increasingly looking for it, so the architecture and building industry will need to deliver. And as I mentioned at the start of this conversation, I also think there will be a lot of focus on updating existing buildings to enhance performance. Further information regarding the conference can be found here.
Placeholder Alt Text

America Last

“Great” construction projects in America? Starchitects say: look elsewhere

A strange thing has been happening at some public architecture talks lately, perhaps you’ve noticed. Over the course of otherwise hopeful and positive discussions covering amazing new projects from around the globe, at some point, usually toward the end of a talk, conversation turns to the current state of American building and infrastructure. And, it's safe to say, people are not happy. Sometimes, the presenter will rip off the bandaid, as Thom Mayne of Morphosis did at a recent Facades+  talk in Los Angeles, when he said, “I hate to be negative, but there’s not much going on in this country architecturally,” before adding, “[But] if you look at architecture around the world, it’s startling…It’s unbelievable, the research [taking place]—I just came back from Shenzhen [China] and I’m looking around [at the skyline] there wondering ‘is there anything left for me to do?’” Other times, a perplexed-sounding audience member will ask what it seems many in attendance had been pondering privately: “Why can’t we build like this here?” 

 It’s a debilitating question that really only has one answer. And although, even when speaking bluntly, everyone tries their best to truth-tell without offending, but the writing is right on the projection screen—building big in America simply isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t know what to do about it.

 “The United States is falling behind,” architect Moshe Safdie explained to a packed room during a recent keynote talk at Palm Springs Modernism Week when asked why the inventive array of projects he had just presented are mostly located outside the United States. “Around the world, the competition [for bold infrastructure] doesn’t stop,” he said, half-jokingly, “until you land at Kennedy or LAX.” 

 To prove his point, Safdie pointed out further that although the Hudson Yards development in New York City is the largest privately-led construction project in the country by square footage, it is easily dwarfed in terms of vision by countless projects around the globe of a similar or larger size. 

 He’s right. Hudson Yards is a dime a dozen as far as global mega-projects are concerned. Safdie’s own Raffles City development in Chongqing, China, for example, might be roughly two-thirds the size of Hudson Yards, but it is going up in less than one-third the time and is almost entirely designed by a single architecture firm—Safdie Architects—with P&T Group International Ltd. serving as architect of record. Safdie’s own portfolio of recent work shows that while New York occasionally will build an elevated billionaire citadel, Chongqing, Singapore, and other cities have tasked his office with erecting bold new structures designed for working people and the public at large, all without sacrificing design quality. 

 Safdie explained that one possible reason why American projects no longer lead the world in terms of size or scale might be due to a “lack of urban initiative,” the type of sustained and calculated political and managerial energy necessary for bringing to life the types of large-scale and lasting projects that have transformed other countries around the world in recent decades. 

It’s a sentiment echoed by Rem Koolhaas, who, when recently asked about the prevalence of NIMBYism in America, explained, “I think you can divide the world into one part that is eager to change and doesn’t have hesitations about things changing, and another part that is totally nervous about change and actually aspires to a kind of stability.” Koolhaas added, “As an architect, every one of your efforts is impacted by this. In the end, however, architecture is always controversial because it proposes to make things different than they are.”

 Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the realm of high-speed rail (HSR), where American decision makers across all levels of government have persisted in remaining tethered to auto-centric planning, condemning the nation to antiquated transportation for at least another generation. A recent article in The New York Times covering the ongoing debacle with California’s tragic HSR project, for example, brings this condition into sharp relief with the following line: “California’s High-Speed Rail Authority…was established 23 years ago. During that time China has built 16,000 miles of high-speed rail.”

 America has built none. But America’s last-place finish doesn’t end with rail or with deteriorating airports; it includes city-building, too, as Safdie pointed out. Much of America is suffering from some form of housing crisis, whether it’s so-called Rust Belt cities struggling to retain residents or coastal cities that can’t figure out how and where to build new housing fast enough. While American cities have doubled-down on onerous building restrictions and lengthy bureaucratic reviews, politically polarized state and federal governments have worked at cross purposes, too, failing to enact bold plans and avoiding future-oriented thinking at almost all costs. The overarching legacy of redlining, racial segregation, and income inequality has placed a stranglehold over American cities, as well, contributing to intense gentrification when development does occur and debilitating displacement when it doesn’t. Over the last decade, it has become clear that America's public health, land-use, and transportation policies are all woefully out of whack, and the result is stifling the abilities of a generation of well-trained architects and engineers eager to build a better nation. Meanwhile, the world’s urbanizing areas have embraced building vertically, have expanded transit of all sorts, and have worked to enact bold planning initiatives that over a generation have remade the face of global urbanism in the name of interconnectedness, density, and place-making.

 In Europe, for example, France is currently enacting its “Le Grand Paris” plan, a vision that will stitch together the Paris city center with its inner and outer ring suburbs to bring together an urban region of 10 million inhabitants. The plan includes a €30 billion public transit expansion initiative that will create a network of regional transit routes connecting suburbs with one another as well as sizable new investments in social housing, parks, and other equity-minded initiatives.

 But it’s not just Europe. 

 Cairo, Egypt, is building a new $45 billion capital city that, when completed, will become the largest purpose-built capital city by population in the world.

 In India, the country’s largest infrastructure project, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, aims to connect the nation’s political and economic capitals with a 900-mile long conurbation made up of 24 urban “nodes.” The plan aims to urbanize 14 percent of India’s population—180 million people—over the next 30 years and will take $100 billion in investment to realize.

 In South America, Argentina’s so-called Belgrano Plan will bring $16 billion in rail expansion to 10 of the country’s neglected northern provinces and will create up to 250,000 new housing units and 1,100 childhood education centers. 

 Saudi Arabia is building new mega cities from scratch, as are China, Singapore, Nigeria, Mauritius, and countless others. 

 None of these projects are perfect socially or environmentally-speaking, to be sure, but one thing they do not lack is vision.

 If it feels like the most impressive work is taking place in other countries, that’s because in many ways, it is, and international architects know perhaps better than anyone else the truth of that reality. Even more, the hesitation, hedging, and hand-wringing that accompanies talk of the current state of American infrastructure and urban vision indicate that the problem runs deeper than a mere lack of funding or risk-averse clients. 

Whether it’s California’s flailing HSR project, the nation’s intractable housing crises, or even, the sad, dispirited political discourse surrounding the Green New Deal—a potentially transformative plan that is barely supported by the party that conceived it—it is clear that America has a crisis of vision, a failure of political will, and perhaps most alarmingly, no real interest in solving its own problems. Look at the Salesforce Transit Center debacle in San Francisco, Elon Musk’s substandard and retrograde transit ideas in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the steady stream of failing bridges and tunnels across the country for further proof. Even Amazon’s HQ2 extravaganza, a year-long publicity stunt by the world’s richest company that wrung billions in incentives from some of the most desperate cities around the country, rightfully withered on the vine. What’s going on here?

 As Safdie quipped, “We were promised infrastructure!” But the truth is that it’s just not happening in America anymore.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bigger is Better

Bernard Tschumi Architects’ Exploratorium Museum bulges with cones of perforated aluminum panels
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
With an imposing set of towers rising from a tabula rasa-like setting, one could at first mistake Bernard Tschumi Architects (BTA)'s Tianjin Binhai Exploratorium as a contemporary take on medieval fortifications. Designed between 2013 and 2014, and completed in the fall of 2019, the museum houses artifacts from Tianjin's heavy industrial past and displays of large-scale contemporary technology. The formidable complex is clad in thousands of perforated copper-colored aluminum panels studded with oculi for interior lighting. The 355,200-square-foot museum is located on the former site of a sprawling industrial park; the towers of the design are intended by the firm to evoke the smokestacks that formerly blanketed that landscape, with the copper-like panels standing in for rusted pipes and machinery.
  • Facade Manufacturer Tianjin Huhui Andersen
  • Architects Bernard Tschumi Architects
  • Facade Installer Tianjin Huhui Andersen
  • Facade Consultants Inhabit Group
  • Location Tianjin, China
  • Date of Completion Fall 2019
  • System Perforated aluminum rainscreen over sealed aluminum surface
  • Products Custom-designed treated and perforated aluminum panels
In total, there are approximately 3,600 panels spread across the museum's four elevations. The panels come in two sizes along flat portions of the facade; approximately 4-feet-by-7-feet and 4-feet-by-11.5-feet. To clad the curved and tapered cones of the museum, the design team developed 52 different sizes of panels with each row of the cones corresponding to a unique width. At the intersections between cones and flat surfaces, as well as the oculi and panels, the team generated over 200 special cuts. The large size of the panels called for a significant degree of reinforcement, with each panel backed by two aluminum U-channels located between the perforations. "The panels are bolted through the one-inch vertical joints to a substructure made of vertical seven-inch by three-inch steel tubes," said BTA co-director, Joel Rutten. "The actual enclosure of the building is made of a sealed aluminum surface in front of the thermal insulation. The vertical steel substructure is anchored to the building from slab to slab through the aluminum/insulation enclosure." The pattern of each cluster of perforations corresponds to an 8-by-8-inch grid; the perforations come in three different diameters, their placement generated by a digital script. Additionally, there is a three-color gradient for the aluminum panels, which was also generated by a custom script. In terms of environmental performance, the oculi-studded cones flood gallery spaces and the principal vertical circulation routes with natural light. As a result of their tapered outline, the towers also effectively collect warm air which is easily ventilated outward at their summits. Additionally, the bulk of the museum's structural components are placed within the cones, minimizing the number of columns within gallery spaces. The project is one of five major attractions within Tianjin's Binhai Cultural Center, which also includes MVRDV's Tianjin Binhai Library.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Hornet's Nest

Facades+ Charlotte will explore the growing dynamism of the Queen City
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, aided in part by the city's status as the nation's second-largest financial center after New York City. Thanks in part to a continually expanding light-rail system, entire corridors of the city have seemingly sprouted overnight, delivering thousands of residential units and dozens of significant commercial developments. On March 19, The Architect's Newspaper is bringing Facades+ to Charlotte for the first time to discuss the development and facade research being conducted in the city. Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, a local firm with an international presence, is co-chairing the event. Participants for the conference's symposium include Duda|Paine Architects, UNC Charlotte, NC State College of Design, MARC FORNES/THEVERYMANY, Northwood Ravin, BB+M Architecture, Perkins+Will, Crescent Communities, and Cousins Properties. In this interview with The Architect's Newspaper, Little Principal Eddie Portis, the conference co-chair, discusses the trends reshaping Charlotte and the work of Little within and outside the city. The Architect's Newspaper: Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing construction markets in the country. How is the current boom in development reshaping the Queen City?

Eddie Portis: Charlotte has been evolving toward an 18-hour city for several years and the current boom is accelerating this evolution. The improvements occurring within the Stonewall corridor are great examples of this. Over 4 million new square feet of office, hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail, including a Whole Foods grocery store, and countless new dwelling units are changing the fabric of our city.

AN: Can you expand on the above and focus on Uptown and corridors of transit-oriented development?

EP: We are experiencing the era of "convenience" as a result of the densification of our city’s core and the linear growth created by rail. When combined with our busing network, Uber, and even scooters, how we move through the city has undergone a massive, positive transformation. The way we can now move through the city is changing the way we shop, dine, work, and play. AN: What do you perceive to be the most exciting trends, be it in facade design or urbanistically, of this era of development? EP: I see a very positive trend in the downtown area as it relates to the public realm. There is a renewed focus on the ground plane and the involvement of buildings in our community. Large expansive office lobbies are giving way to more modestly-scaled lobbies so that more space can be created for retail of all shapes and sizes. The other factor we see, at least in office development, that is not a current trend but rather a constant pursuit, is daylight and views. The "fifth" facade—that from the view of the building occupant—has an incredible impact on our city. It creates eyes on the street and absorbs the energy of the city; it improves worker performance and enlightens our lives. AN: Little is one of the largest firms in the city. How are you embracing this moment and what novel enclosure practices are being used by your firm? EP: At Little, we encourage exploration and seek to implement breakthrough ideas. One way we do this is through our internal "ReThink" initiative. In this initiative, a team seeks to explore the latest thoughts in the industry and overlay those with design intent. This is demonstrated through a recent, winning design competition project where we worked with San Francisco State University to create a skin concept designed to capture water from the prevalent fog that helped allow for a net positive student housing facility. Another example is a design competition we recently completed through Metals magazine. Our "Living in the Wall" study demonstrated how the curtain wall can become more than a “line on a page," and instead become a multi-dimensional blur between people and the environment, technology, and humanity. Further information regarding Facades+ Charlotte may be found here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bell Fab

Eero Saarinen’s Bell Labs stays bright with the largest photovoltaic skylight in the U.S.
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex, completed by Eero Saarinen in 1962, is a sprawling former research building clad in reflective glass and topped with a quarter-mile-long roof. After approximately a decade of real estate juggling, the property was purchased by New Jersey's Somerset Development in 2013, which began an extensive renovation of the property, including the replacement of the roof with the largest photovoltaic glass skylight in the United States. In December 2018, The Architect's Newspaper took a private tour of the renowned mid-century research lab with Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker. Much of the interior is still under a painstaking conversion designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects into contemporary tech-focused office space.
  • Facade Manufacturer Onyx Solar
  • Facade Installer Elite Industrial & Commercial Roofing
  • Facade Consultants Somerset Development
  • Location Holmdel, New Jersey
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Custom-fit and installed glass panels over existing frame
  • Products Onyx Solar Building-Integrated Photo-Voltaics
The atrium skylight consists of 3,200 panes of glass subjected to 24 different glazings and assembled in a series of ridges. Replacing the windows was fairly straightforward; the original glass was removed, then the existing frames were cleaned and then fitted with advanced weather strips to seal the building-integrated photovoltaics. However, the sheer scale of the project and its historic importance required unique approaches to the installation of the glass panels. The installation team had to carefully install the right glazing in the correct bay and row. “To mitigate this risk, we created a model of each of the three sky roofs and identified every glazing and the position of the glazing with each bay and row of the sky roof,” said Bell Works Chief Energy Officer/Chief Technology Officer Joel Shandelman. "This model ensured we had the exact number of each glazing and the respective permanent position of the skyroof.” The panels are composed of a central silicon film of photovoltaic glass laminated on both sides by tempered safety glass—providing the added benefit of reducing solar heat gain with a 20 percent visual light transmittance. In total, the approximately 60,000 square-foot glass installation annually generates nearly 90,000 kilowatt hours. In June 2017, after the skylight installation, the complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places.