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Speed Bump for Museum Plaza
The Beaux-Arts Speed Art Museum.
John Nation

After nearly a decade of research and soul searching, the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky has just announced an eclectic shortlist of firms for its planned expansion. While the Speed finally moves ahead, the city’s most ambitious architectural project, the REX-designed Museum Plaza, has been put on indefinite hold.

The Speed, an encyclopedic collection that is also the state’s largest, sits on the campus of the University of Louisville, which is well outside of the downtown area. It has had difficulty drawing students and its visitor numbers are relatively modest. The eight finalists for the expansion, who range from experienced museum builders to up-and-comers, include SANAA, Gluckman Mayner Architects, Bernard Tschumi Architects, Bjarke Ingels Group, Snøhetta, Studio Gang, Henning Larsen Architects, and wHY architecture. “We wanted a range of architectural thinking, which we believe will produce unexpected solutions for our difficult site,” said Charles L. Venable, the director of the Speed. The museum is also expecting the teams to work closely with a landscape architecture firm, which has yet to be announced.

A decade ago the museum’s board of governors, which then included the prominent local art collector Steve Wilson, began deliberating an expansion, including relocating to or opening a satellite branch in downtown Louisville. Following a feasibility study conducted by Cooper Robertson, the board decided to expand on its present two-acre site instead. “When I arrived a year ago, the board had done an enormous amount of investigation and research,” said Venable. He helped jump-start expansion plans by hiring the Chicago-based firm Rise Group, an owner’s representative that is known for working with institutional clients, to sift through the research and develop a plan of action. Venable, who was last deputy director at the Cleveland Museum of Art, had previously worked with Rise on that museum’s ongoing expansion, designed by Rafael Viñoly.


REX's Museum Plaza includes a contemporary art center, hotel, condominiums, and offices.
 
COURTESY REX
 
 

The Speed and Museum Plaza have been intertwined from the start. After the Speed decided not to expand downtown, museum governor Wilson, with his wife, Laura Lee Brown, heiress to a liquor fortune, and two partners, initiated the Museum Plaza project, a mixed-use 60-story tower that includes a 35,000-square-foot kunsthalle, which will host traveling contemporary art exhibitions, at its center. Wilson eventually left the Speed’s board, though he and Brown continue to be involved with the museum. “Steve and Laura Lee have been very generous to the museum, and they really pushed the institution to set its sights at the highest levels,” Venable said. The Speed plans to formally announce its capital campaign after it selects an architect and landscape team in early 2009.

Ground was broken on Museum Plaza last year, and thus far a street has been closed, extensive utility and infrastructure work is underway, and several historic buildings have been demolished, though their facades have been retained, to make way for the building’s tilted entrance. REX’s Joshua Prince-Ramus wrote in an email, “Owner, design team, and general contractor remain totally committed to the project. We are waiting for the bond market to strengthen to secure the tax increment financing. It is not a question of if the project will get built, but when.” Alice Gray Stites, managing director of the planned contemporary art center at Museum Plaza, believes the city can support both institutions. She added by email, “Steve and Laura Lee’s desire to create a contemporary art institution in the heart of downtown was fueled by their commitment to both contemporary art and to the revitalization of downtown Louisville. The Speed’s decision to expand on its own site does not alter the need for a strong, contemporary visual arts presence on Main Street.”

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Majoring in Green
SOM and Fernau & Hartman's wedge-shaped library and information technology building serves as the center of student life on the UC Merced campus.
Tim Griffith

In 1898 architect Bernard Maybeck—in his role as manager of the design competition for the University of California Berkeley masterplan—called for a college campus design for the 20th century. Above all, Maybeck felt the new campus should be beautiful and evoke a strong sense of institutional permanence. “There will be no more necessity of remodeling its broad outlines a thousand years hence,” he continued, “than there would be of remodeling the Parthenon, had it come down to us complete and uninjured.” It had to be beautiful, forever. That was all.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s when, for the eleventh time in its 117-year history, the Regents of the University of California made a priority of designing a college campus from scratch. This new campus, the first since the Regents opened UC campuses in Irvine, San Diego, and Santa Barbara in the mid-1960s, would be built on a greenfield site near the Central Valley town of Merced. The first phase, a core of four academic buildings, would replace a golf course. The full campus, which will include clusters of student housing, academic buildings, and open space organized around a central main street, is expected to take 20 to 25 years. Constructed in four phases, it will cover 910 acres and accommodate 25,000 students by the year 2030. The stakes are high: UC Merced is the first entirely new research university to open its doors in the U.S. in the 21st century.

UC Merced fills a major gap in the distribution of UC campuses across the state. According to UC Merced’s long-range development plan, the San Joaquin Valley—a region marked by a booming agricultural industry and predominantly immigrant workforce—had the state’s highest concentration of residents living more than 50 miles from a UC campus. Locating the new campus in Merced extended the geographic reach of one of the state’s two higher education systems to meet the needs of a generally underserved population.


Christopher Grubbs


Tim Griffith 

The complete masterplan (top) includes clusters of student housing, academic buildings, and open spaces organized around a central main street. The new library (above) is v-shaped in plan and has three- and four-story wings connected by a taller glassy core at its center.  
 
 

Yet building on a rural site—situated 130 miles from the nearest metropolis—meant upping the ante when it came to minimizing its carbon footprint. With the first phase of build-out now complete, it’s clear that the architectural vision for UC Merced is not very concerned with Maybeck’s notions of “architectural art” or striving toward a lofty ideal of everlasting beauty. Instead, it has everything to do with sustainability.

The campus architecture and planning reflects an engagement in that tricky balancing act known as “smart growth.” Could the UC Merced campus accommodate new development while also mitigating its impact on the environment? Could it be the first LEED-certified, even carbon neutral, college campus in the U.S.? In light of these performative 21st-century goals, the campus—which opened in August for its third academic year—operates with machine-like efficiency.

“There was a real mandate from the university that this campus would be 20 percent more energy efficient than the rest of the UC campuses,” said Michael Duncan, associate partner in the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill—and the architect of the campus’ masterplan and two other buildings in the campus core. All of the buildings are required to meet a minimum of LEED Silver, or 20 percent below California’s Title 24 requirements and at or below 80 percent of the energy-demand benchmarks for existing UC buildings.

The greenest aspect of the campus might very well be its plan. SOM oriented the underlying grid about 30 degrees off the true north-south axis, which greatly simplifies the task of siting individual buildings in the most energy-efficient way possible—or with respect to the rising and setting sun. It also takes wind into account: The grid runs parallel to the path of cooling breezes coming off the surface of Lake Yosemite.

The grid orientation also outlines perimeter blocks, where buildings are arranged along the edges of streets or major walking paths (like most college campuses, the plan for UC Merced maintains a car-free academic core). In this context, where you can actually see the horizon, it seems barely relevant to call this a good urban design strategy. Yet it’s an important move that anticipates a time, 30 years from now, when 30,000 students will buzz from quadrangle to quadrangle, back and forth along the campus’ main drag. Here, SOM has imported a bit of big-city thinking into a small Central Valley town: a grid of efficient, tightly-knit development to serve as a counterpoint to the more usual pattern of suburban and exurban sprawl.

Yet Duncan is quick to point out the plan’s more innate qualities. “It’s a scheme based on Central Valley towns built around a Main Street—rather than something like a University of Virginia or Stanford that makes a first grand gesture and has to design all the buildings to support it, which can’t really result in a pattern of natural growth.”

And already some buildings within this still-developing scheme have earned kudos. Wedged between two irrigation canals, the school’s 120,000-square-foot, $36 million library and information technology center—the largest building on campus—achieved a LEED Gold rating soon after it welcomed UC Merced’s first crop of 970 students in September 2005. Designed by SOM, in collaboration with Berkeley-based Fernau & Hartman, the UC Merced Library serves as the main hub and all-in-one center for student life. “It’s the campus living room,” said Duncan, where students study, register for classes, buy books, join clubs, and hang out.

The library is V-shaped in plan with three- and four-story wings connected by a taller glassy core at its center. The core contains two double-height spaces—an atrium and a reading room—stacked on top of one another. The reading room connects to the periodicals lounge, another double-height space that cantilevers over the outdoor courtyard and creates a pleasantly shady space that draws students in toward the main entrance. Orienting the building north-south allowed the architects to take a straightforward approach to shading the interiors. Rows of horizontal glass louvers stripe the south-facing facades while strategically placed oak panels let in generous amounts of diffused northern daylight.

If the library makes the campus work on a social level, the central plant complex simply makes the campus work. The superefficient, 41,000-square-foot power plant designed by SOM, in collaboration with Arup and the California Institute for Energy Efficiency, is a three-building, $26 million complex that includes a main mechanical building and a separate telecommunications hub wrapped in a unified system of horizontal stainless steel panels. The main mechanical workhorse, however, is the two-million-gallon thermal energy storage tank—a tall cylinder clad in a vertical pattern of corrugated steel “shingles.” The materials and form are loose references to semi-trucks and grain silos, both common sights in the Central Valley’s agricultural-industrial landscape. “When we first started this job, there was just the clarity of these objects in this vast landscape,” said Duncan, who designed the building’s skin and interiors. “We wanted to make them iconically simple.”

The tank is described as “thermal,” in the sense that it acts like a giant thermos: It stores and chills all of the campus’ water. The water is cooled overnight, when lower temperatures allow the electric chillers to run more efficiently. This also saves money, since using electricity during off-peak hours costs about one-third of what it does during the day. Cold water is then pumped from the bottom of the tank, through 12-foot-high tunnels to each of the campus’ four buildings—while graywater and stormwater are pumped back and stored at the top of the tank. The central plant also earned LEED Gold certification, largely because of its recycled metal shell.

The 93,000-square-foot classroom building and 100,000-square-foot science and engineering building, designed respectively by Portland-based Thomas Hacker Architects and San Francisco–based EHDD Architecture, are also on target to meet LEED Silver standards.

How will it all come together? Ironically, for this hyper-sustainable campus, it may boil down to aesthetics. “The glass sunscreens became more thematic as a unifier than we’d initially intended,” Duncan commented. Glass fins as the next red tile roofs? With all due respect to Maybeck and the principles of his time, we will cross our fingers and see.

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Glass Dynamics
Jim Brady

In the Clear: Taking Advantage of Glass’ Two-Way Street

By Aaron Seward

The great pursuit in glass architecture, and thus the technology that feeds it, is and has been for energy efficiency. More specifically, it is the elusive quest to design the most transparent building possible while at the same time mitigating heat gain and glare delivered by the sun. The failure thus far to achieve a balance between fulfilling this architectural ideal and creating an environmentally responsible and comfortable built environment was aptly illustrated by the recent backlash against glass condos. The Wall Street Journal ran an article this August chronicling a spate of horror stories from residents who didn’t anticipate what it means to live in a glass house at the beginning of the new millennium. The harrowing details included faded furniture, the impossibility of watching television during the day, peeping Toms ogling daughters, Windex sizzling to an impossible-to-remove gunk, and cooling systems unable to compensate for the unfettered glory of the sun.

Aside from these issues of individual comfort and livability, it seems clear that, when looking at how we might reduce our overall carbon footprint, glass (our most ubiquitous contemporary building material) is a good place to start. A study issued by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates that windows are responsible for 2.15 quadrillion BTUs of heating energy consumption and 1.48 quadrillion BTUs of cooling energy consumption within the United States annually, or 30 percent of building electrical loads nationwide. The same study estimates that an overnight replacement of the nation’s window stock with existing high-insulating glass technologies, such as low-emittance coatings and multi-pane units, would result in energy savings of approximately 1.2 quadrillion BTUs, while a similar upgrade to future technologies, currently under research and development at LBNL, could save a potential 3.9 quadrillion BTUs.

Oddly enough, these future technologies seek to improve energy ratings by taking advantage of the very quality that seems to be glass’ greatest weakness: its transmissiveness. “Glass is one of the few building materials out there that allows energy to flow both ways at the same time,” said Chris Barry, technical director at glass manufacturer Pilkington. “In the summer that can be beneficial by allowing heat to escape the interior, while in the winter it lets in the sun’s warmth.”

Ever since the oil embargo of the 1970s, when energy costs went through the roof, the industry has been trying to make glass walls behave more like brick walls in terms of insulation values. This has been successful to the point that today people who have installed low-e solutions in their homes are complaining that when they sit in their breakfast nook in the morning they feel cold. The alternative to this approach is what is commonly known as “smart glass” or “switchable glazing,” in other words, a glass unit whose opacity or reflectiveness can be altered to deflect or transmit more or less of the sun’s energy, thus creating a dynamic barrier that can be optimally tailored to environmental conditions as they change throughout the day or the year.

Smart glass has been developed in a number of varieties, including polymer dispersed liquid crystal, suspended particle, and electrochromic devices. Liquid crystal glass has become popular for privacy screening (it was famously used inRem Koolhaas’Prada stores), but it has no energy-saving benefits. Basically, two layers of glass sandwich transparent electrical conductors enveloping a thin layer of liquid crystal droplets. When in the “off” position, the liquid crystals scatter light, giving the unit a milky white appearance, but when an electrical current is applied the crystals align according to the electric field and assume a transparent state. The change between these two states is instantaneous and there is no middle ground between them.

Suspended particle glass is almost identical in its assembly, except that microscopic rod-like particles, rather than liquid crystals, float in a fluid between the conducting and glass layers. Without an electrical current, the rods fall into random organizations and tend to absorb light, whereas when a current is applied they align to allow light to pass through. Unlike liquid crystal, suspended particle devices can be dimmed to allow more or less light and heat to pass through. Both of these systems require a small but constant electrical current to remain transparent, while the third system, electrochromic, requires a current to affect the change in transparency, but once that change takes place the current is no longer needed. This system is currently the focus of most smart glass research at LBNL. The system works by passing a burst charge through several microscopically thin layers on the glass surface, activating a layer of tungsten oxide and causing it to turn from clear to dark. The reverse change takes place when the charge is passed the opposite way. A mirror system has also been developed that transitions from clear to reflective. Electrochromic systems remain transparent across their switching range—between approximately five and 80 percent transmittance—and can be modulated to any intermediate state.

According to Eleanor Lee, a building technology expert at LBNL, electrochromic glass is on the cusp of being ready for large-scale use, but there are still several impediments. “It’s an emerging technology,” said Lee, “people don’t know about it, it costs more than available systems, and there are many unknowns.” The building industry is notoriously sheepish about using new materials, as the cost of a major failure could be ruinous, but what the technology needs to get off the ground is exactly the type of investment that a large project would provide. Lee pointed out the New York Times Building, which significantly boosted the research and development of external and motorized shading systems. “Manufacturers are willing to do a big project,” she said. “That amount of money would give them the start up cost to bring in the people to engineer the product.”

Another sticking point, of course, lies with the architectural leadership, who will have to decide whether or not they’re willing to allow the external aspect of their buildings to be tossed about willy-nilly by the whimsy of occupants and the demands of the passing sun.

Aaron Seward is an associate editor at AN.

 


  


David Franck

 

Trumpf Gatehouse
Ditzingen, Germany
Barkow Leibinger Architects with Werner Sobek

 Trumpf, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of machine and laser tools, won’t open its 90,000-square-foot expansion in Ditzingen, Germany until mid-2009, but one can get a sense of what’s to come from the spectacular Gatehouse, which was designed by Barkow Leibinger Architects of Berlin and opened on the Trumpf campus in late 2007.

A honeycombed membrane of stainless steel cantilevers 60 feet over and floats above a 400-square-foot rectangular glass box that houses a reception and waiting area. The roof is a pattern of triangles that compress based on the changing structural forces over its surface. The roof, which was fabricated in-house at Trumpf, is an interesting formal experiment and a celebration of Trumpf’s advanced laser technology, but it is the Miesian glass box beneath that endows the sizeable overhang with its dramatic effect.

With engineering consultant Werner Sobek and manufacturer Glaszentrum Schweikert, Barkow Leibinger developed a 12-inch double non-bearing facade of two layers of low-emission float glass that gives the impression that the planar roof hovers in thin air. However, as Frank Barkow explains, the dynamic roof sits on a core of four columns inside the box while connected to the glass facade by an accordion-shaped rubber gasket that was developed by the team of engineers and architects specifically for this pavilion. Between the two glass surfaces of the facade, the architects stacked Plexiglas tubes of varying diameter, which provide subtle shading to the interiors. The team developed a custom detail of dark Plexiglas structural posts that run vertically between the glass sandwich panels, which are stronger than glass and make the whole facade read as a transparent plane. The interior glass panel is operable to allow for the occasional cleaning of the tubes, which are glued together for easy access. Together, the double facade, the tubes, and the screens lower the cooling costs of the pavilion. It is at night, when the honeycomb roof is lit by LED lights and when the Plexiglas tubes trap the light from the interiors between the layers of glass in an eerie-looking blurry effect, that the Gatehouse appears ready to drift off in a world of its own.

David van der Leer is a frequent contributor to AN.

 


  


Courtesy Simone Giostra/Arup/Ruogu

 

Xicui Entertainment Complex
Beijing, China
Simone Giostra & Partners with Arup

The buildings designed for the Beijing Olympics hardly lacked in spectacle, but New York architect Simone Giostra created one that is aimed more toward the gallery crowd than gym-goers. The 24,000-square-foot media wall called Greenpix, which covers the entire facade of the six-story Xicui Entertainment Complex, is an all-glass facade that collects solar energy during the day and gives off tantalizing patterns of vibrant colors at night. Unlike many similar (though smaller) media walls, typically used for display advertising, this one was created to showcase video works. For its opening, Greenpix’s lead curator Luis Gui worked with Shanghai-based curator Defne Ayas, who commissioned pieces by artists Aaaijao and Shi Chieh Huang of China, and Varara Shavrova of Russia.

However inspiring it may be from an aesthetic perspective, it is the system’s sustainability that is of most interest to Giostra, who developed the wall in collaboration with Arup. Together with two German glass manufacturers, Schueco and Sunways, they created a technology to laminate polycrystalline solar cells into glass panels. “It is the most radical example of photovoltaic technology applied to an entire building envelope,” said Giostra. The solar panels have been embedded in the glass panels, some of which are set at an angle, in a pattern of varying density that depends on the nature of the spaces inside and their requirements for daylight. These solar cells provide energy to the roughly 2,300 LED light points, which are intentionally distributed at a lower resolution than generally used for media walls, contributing to the wall’s special abstract quality.

The standard media wall is designed to have an even light intensity throughout the course of a day, but the brightness of Greenpix’s diodes depends on the weather. After a gray day the facade glows subtly at night, whereas a sunny day results in a feast of color. Arup tested over 200 different full-scale prototypes on site in Beijing for more than a year to see what combinations of interlayer, treatments, thickness, solar cells, and textures provided the highest possible performance. The combination they finally installed is projected to maintain 80 percent of its nominal efficiency for the next two decades, during which the wall is expected to become a platform for site specific works made by future generations of video artists.  DVDL

 


 


Scott Frances

 

1099 New York Avenue
Washington, D.C.
Thomas Phifer and Partners

With its strict height limits and bevy of bureaucratic institutions, the District of Columbia has long favored architectural harmony and conformity over innovative design. How refreshing, then, to see a commonplace glass-box office building raise the bar for design in the Capital without disrupting the city’s intended uniformity.

Designed by New York-based Thomas Phifer and Partners, 1099 New York Avenue is an eleven-story, 173,000-square-foot office building, developed by Tishman Speyer, with a crystalline facade that expresses its materiality and, thanks to meticulous detailing, offers what Phifer calls a subtle “sense of surprise.” “Jerry Speyer wanted a special building with a unique skin,” said Phifer, “and he wanted to do it in D.C.” On first glance 1099 might look like a particularly well wrought version of the ultra-glassy office building— at times perfectly transparent, at others so reflective as to nearly disappear—such as SOM’s World Trade Center Seven. As you get closer, however, you see that rather than striving for a pure planar surface, Phifer has created something, literally, more multifaceted.

Rather than using a curtain wall system, Phifer opted for a custom window wall over the building’s thin concrete frame (Washington’s height limits make ultra thin floor plates a must). Each pane of glass is tilted six inches in both plan and section, giving the building a sense of depth and shimmer. “We wanted it to be a detail, rather than a gesture,” Pfifer said. “If it had been a big gesture, that would give away the sense of surprise.” A cast stainless steel clip, visible from below, supports the pane. “The clip expresses the weight of the panes.” The five-inch deep by eight-inch long clips also add to the texture of the facades.

The large twelve-and-a-half-feet long by five-and-a-half-feet wide low-emission Viracon panes function like shingles, allowing water to run down and drip off the facades during storms. At ground level, an installation by artist Matthew Ritchie helps enliven the streetscape. The building, which follows the contour of the lot where the Washington grid is bisected by a diagonal avenue, responds to its site, respecting its context while showing that even a small speculative office building, with the right attention to detailing, can reflect higher ambitions.

Alan G. Brake is an associate editor at AN.

 


 

  
M. Moulinet/Polkop/Courtesy Rolinet & Associes

 

Chapelle des Diaconesses
Versailles, France
Rolinet & Associés

In Versailles, in a park dotted with trees, sits the Chapelle des Diaconesses, a cocoon of superimposed pine wood strips inside a triangular glass structure. The small chapel, which opened to the public in 2007, replaced a large cloth tent that the Protestant Community of the Deaconesses used over a period of 20 years for its largest ceremonies. French architect Marc Rolinet’s modern interpretation of religious architecture subtly refers to this former place of worship. The sisters of the parish requested a chapel that would be firmly rooted in the 21st century, and that “offers modern people an interior that combines beauty, intimacy, and celebration, and that invites them to reflect and find peace.”

Rolinet set out to design a lightweight glass structure that follows the hilly topography of the site and provides an arcade between the wood and glass that is now used for quiet reflection. The envelope, made out of laminated safety glass with a structural interlayer by DuPont and manufactured by Saint-Gobain, protects the wooden chapel from the weather and forms an optimal acoustic barrier to the railroad station close by. Stronger than conventional laminating materials, the interlayers help create safety glass that protects against bigger storms, larger impacts, and more powerful blasts. The layers become an engineered component within the glass, holding more weight, so the glass can serve as a more active structural element in the building envelope. And they do all this while increasing framing system design freedom and improving long-term weather resistance. Marc Rolinet stated, “The structural calculations performed by DuPont and Saint-Gobain Glass enabled us to reduce the glass thickness, increase the pitch, and lighten the supporting structure.” Without the structural interlayer, the glass would have been thicker—and therefore more expensive. It also allowed for a direct integration of the fixing devices into the laminated inner glass layers. The structure spans a large distance, and allows for a minimal number of steel girders. But in the end it was the mirror-like effect that convinced Rolinet to use this material instead of conventional laminated glass—an effect that now at certain points of the day allows for a spectacular reflection of the charming park surrounding the chapel.   DVDL

 


  


Jim Brady

 

LOFTS @ 655 6th
San Diego
Public

Lofts @ 655 6th, a seven-story, mixed-use project that opened last December on the edge of San Diego’s East Village and Gaslamp districts, uses an innovative glass system to distinguish what is a fairly simple structure from the city’s many other new residential buildings.

The project is one of the few new rental properties in a city awash in high-end condos. In order to save money, maximize space, and create a more authentic loft-like ambience than the traditional configurations that are dressed up to look like lofts, and which are so common today in San Diego, local firm Public built a huge concrete box at the core of the 106-unit building. The 100,000-square-foot structure then steps down to the east to address the neighborhood.

The infill glazing system cladding the core is made up of a varied pattern of small and large glazed squares. All are very transparent, but highly energy-efficient, with a U-value of .41. To further animate the facade, Public hung an irregularly spaced clear tempered glass screen system over the project’s west-facing balconies. The screen is fitted with a perforated vinyl film—similar to the films used to create many billboards—that displays a sepia-toned photo-abstraction of live oak trees, created by photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann. Not only does the screen add complexity to the building, but its shading helped the building pass its state-mandated requirements for solar gain.

When the film needs to be replaced in about five years, the firm hopes the developer will hold a call for entries to find a new artist, thus ensuring a new look for the building. “Our only agreement with the city is that the new image not be distasteful or commercial,” said firm principal James Gates. The building has been a hit, and is fully leased, despite being completed just prior to the recent economic doldrums. “We’re very proud of what we were able to get for the money,” said Gates.

Sam Lubell is AN’s California editor.

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Glass Dynamics
Scott Frances

In the Clear: Taking Advantage of Glass’ Two-Way Street

By Aaron Seward

The great pursuit in glass architecture, and thus the technology that feeds it, is and has been for energy efficiency. More specifically, it is the elusive quest to design the most transparent building possible while at the same time mitigating heat gain and glare delivered by the sun. The failure thus far to achieve a balance between fulfilling this architectural ideal and creating an environmentally responsible and comfortable built environment was aptly illustrated by the recent backlash against glass condos. The Wall Street Journal ran an article this August chronicling a spate of horror stories from residents who didn’t anticipate what it means to live in a glass house at the beginning of the new millennium. The harrowing details included faded furniture, the impossibility of watching television during the day, peeping Toms ogling daughters, Windex sizzling to an impossible-to-remove gunk, and cooling systems unable to compensate for the unfettered glory of the sun.

Aside from these issues of individual comfort and livability, it seems clear that, when looking at how we might reduce our overall carbon footprint, glass (our most ubiquitous contemporary building material) is a good place to start. A study issued by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates that windows are responsible for 2.15 quadrillion BTUs of heating energy consumption and 1.48 quadrillion BTUs of cooling energy consumption within the United States annually, or 30 percent of building electrical loads nationwide. The same study estimates that an overnight replacement of the nation’s window stock with existing high-insulating glass technologies, such as low-emittance coatings and multi-pane units, would result in energy savings of approximately 1.2 quadrillion BTUs, while a similar upgrade to future technologies, currently under research and development at LBNL, could save a potential 3.9 quadrillion BTUs.

Oddly enough, these future technologies seek to improve energy ratings by taking advantage of the very quality that seems to be glass’ greatest weakness: its transmissiveness. “Glass is one of the few building materials out there that allows energy to flow both ways at the same time,” said Chris Barry, technical director at glass manufacturer Pilkington. “In the summer that can be beneficial by allowing heat to escape the interior, while in the winter it lets in the sun’s warmth.”

Ever since the oil embargo of the 1970s, when energy costs went through the roof, the industry has been trying to make glass walls behave more like brick walls in terms of insulation values. This has been successful to the point that today people who have installed low-e solutions in their homes are complaining that when they sit in their breakfast nook in the morning they feel cold. The alternative to this approach is what is commonly known as “smart glass” or “switchable glazing,” in other words, a glass unit whose opacity or reflectiveness can be altered to deflect or transmit more or less of the sun’s energy, thus creating a dynamic barrier that can be optimally tailored to environmental conditions as they change throughout the day or the year.


  

 

Trumpf Gatehouse
Ditzingen, Germany
Barkow Leibinger Architects with Werner Sobek

 Trumpf, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of machine and laser tools, won’t open its 90,000-square-foot expansion in Ditzingen, Germany until mid-2009, but one can get a sense of what’s to come from the spectacular Gatehouse, which was designed by Barkow Leibinger Architects of Berlin and opened on the Trumpf campus in late 2007.

A honeycombed membrane of stainless steel cantilevers 60 feet over and floats above a 400-square-foot rectangular glass box that houses a reception and waiting area. The roof is a pattern of triangles that compress based on the changing structural forces over its surface. The roof, which was fabricated in-house at Trumpf, is an interesting formal experiment and a celebration of Trumpf’s advanced laser technology, but it is the Miesian glass box beneath that endows the sizeable overhang with its dramatic effect.

With engineering consultant Werner Sobek and manufacturer Glaszentrum Schweikert, Barkow Leibinger developed a 12-inch double non-bearing facade of two layers of low-emission float glass that gives the impression that the planar roof hovers in thin air. However, as Frank Barkow explains, the dynamic roof sits on a core of four columns inside the box while connected to the glass facade by an accordion-shaped rubber gasket that was developed by the team of engineers and architects specifically for this pavilion. Between the two glass surfaces of the facade, the architects stacked Plexiglas tubes of varying diameter, which provide subtle shading to the interiors. The team developed a custom detail of dark Plexiglas structural posts that run vertically between the glass sandwich panels, which are stronger than glass and make the whole facade read as a transparent plane. The interior glass panel is operable to allow for the occasional cleaning of the tubes, which are glued together for easy access. Together, the double facade, the tubes, and the screens lower the cooling costs of the pavilion. It is at night, when the honeycomb roof is lit by LED lights and when the Plexiglas tubes trap the light from the interiors between the layers of glass in an eerie-looking blurry effect, that the Gatehouse appears ready to drift off in a world of its own.

David van der Leer is a frequent contributor to AN.

 


  

Xicui Entertainment Complex
Beijing, China
Simone Giostra & Partners with Arup

The buildings designed for the Beijing Olympics hardly lacked in spectacle, but New York architect Simone Giostra created one that is aimed more toward the gallery crowd than gym-goers. The 24,000-square-foot media wall called Greenpix, which covers the entire facade of the six-story Xicui Entertainment Complex, is an all-glass facade that collects solar energy during the day and gives off tantalizing patterns of vibrant colors at night. Unlike many similar (though smaller) media walls, typically used for display advertising, this one was created to showcase video works. For its opening, Greenpix’s lead curator Luis Gui worked with Shanghai-based curator Defne Ayas, who commissioned pieces by artists Aaaijao and Shi Chieh Huang of China, and Varara Shavrova of Russia.

However inspiring it may be from an aesthetic perspective, it is the system’s sustainability that is of most interest to Giostra, who developed the wall in collaboration with Arup. Together with two German glass manufacturers, Schueco and Sunways, they created a technology to laminate polycrystalline solar cells into glass panels. “It is the most radical example of photovoltaic technology applied to an entire building envelope,” said Giostra. The solar panels have been embedded in the glass panels, some of which are set at an angle, in a pattern of varying density that depends on the nature of the spaces inside and their requirements for daylight. These solar cells provide energy to the roughly 2,300 LED light points, which are intentionally distributed at a lower resolution than generally used for media walls, contributing to the wall’s special abstract quality.

The standard media wall is designed to have an even light intensity throughout the course of a day, but the brightness of Greenpix’s diodes depends on the weather. After a gray day the facade glows subtly at night, whereas a sunny day results in a feast of color. Arup tested over 200 different full-scale prototypes on site in Beijing for more than a year to see what combinations of interlayer, treatments, thickness, solar cells, and textures provided the highest possible performance. The combination they finally installed is projected to maintain 80 percent of its nominal efficiency for the next two decades, during which the wall is expected to become a platform for site specific works made by future generations of video artists.  DVDL

 


 

 

1099 New York Avenue
Washington, D.C.
Thomas Phifer and Partners

With its strict height limits and bevy of bureaucratic institutions, the District of Columbia has long favored architectural harmony and conformity over innovative design. How refreshing, then, to see a commonplace glass-box office building raise the bar for design in the Capital without disrupting the city’s intended uniformity.

Designed by New York-based Thomas Phifer and Partners, 1099 New York Avenue is an eleven-story, 173,000-square-foot office building, developed by Tishman Speyer, with a crystalline facade that expresses its materiality and, thanks to meticulous detailing, offers what Phifer calls a subtle “sense of surprise.” “Jerry Speyer wanted a special building with a unique skin,” said Phifer, “and he wanted to do it in D.C.” On first glance 1099 might look like a particularly well wrought version of the ultra-glassy office building— at times perfectly transparent, at others so reflective as to nearly disappear—such as SOM’s World Trade Center Seven. As you get closer, however, you see that rather than striving for a pure planar surface, Phifer has created something, literally, more multifaceted.

Rather than using a curtain wall system, Phifer opted for a custom window wall over the building’s thin concrete frame (Washington’s height limits make ultra thin floor plates a must). Each pane of glass is tilted six inches in both plan and section, giving the building a sense of depth and shimmer. “We wanted it to be a detail, rather than a gesture,” Pfifer said. “If it had been a big gesture, that would give away the sense of surprise.” A cast stainless steel clip, visible from below, supports the pane. “The clip expresses the weight of the panes.” The five-inch deep by eight-inch long clips also add to the texture of the facades.

The large twelve-and-a-half-feet long by five-and-a-half-feet wide low-emission Viracon panes function like shingles, allowing water to run down and drip off the facades during storms. At ground level, an installation by artist Matthew Ritchie helps enliven the streetscape. The building, which follows the contour of the lot where the Washington grid is bisected by a diagonal avenue, responds to its site, respecting its context while showing that even a small speculative office building, with the right attention to detailing, can reflect higher ambitions.

Alan G. Brake is an associate editor at AN.

 


 

  

 

Chapelle des Diaconesses
Versailles, France
Rolinet & Associés

In Versailles, in a park dotted with trees, sits the Chapelle des Diaconesses, a cocoon of superimposed pine wood strips inside a triangular glass structure. The small chapel, which opened to the public in 2007, replaced a large cloth tent that the Protestant Community of the Deaconesses used over a period of 20 years for its largest ceremonies. French architect Marc Rolinet’s modern interpretation of religious architecture subtly refers to this former place of worship. The sisters of the parish requested a chapel that would be firmly rooted in the 21st century, and that “offers modern people an interior that combines beauty, intimacy, and celebration, and that invites them to reflect and find peace.”

Rolinet set out to design a lightweight glass structure that follows the hilly topography of the site and provides an arcade between the wood and glass that is now used for quiet reflection. The envelope, made out of laminated safety glass with a structural interlayer by DuPont and manufactured by Saint-Gobain, protects the wooden chapel from the weather and forms an optimal acoustic barrier to the railroad station close by. Stronger than conventional laminating materials, the interlayers help create safety glass that protects against bigger storms, larger impacts, and more powerful blasts. The layers become an engineered component within the glass, holding more weight, so the glass can serve as a more active structural element in the building envelope. And they do all this while increasing framing system design freedom and improving long-term weather resistance. Marc Rolinet stated, “The structural calculations performed by DuPont and Saint-Gobain Glass enabled us to reduce the glass thickness, increase the pitch, and lighten the supporting structure.” Without the structural interlayer, the glass would have been thicker—and therefore more expensive. It also allowed for a direct integration of the fixing devices into the laminated inner glass layers. The structure spans a large distance, and allows for a minimal number of steel girders. But in the end it was the mirror-like effect that convinced Rolinet to use this material instead of conventional laminated glass—an effect that now at certain points of the day allows for a spectacular reflection of the charming park surrounding the chapel.   DVDL

 


  

 

LOFTS @ 655 6th
San Diego
Public

Lofts @ 655 6th, a seven-story, mixed-use project that opened last December on the edge of San Diego’s East Village and Gaslamp districts, uses an innovative glass system to distinguish what is a fairly simple structure from the city’s many other new residential buildings.

The project is one of the few new rental properties in a city awash in high-end condos. In order to save money, maximize space, and create a more authentic loft-like ambience than the traditional configurations that are dressed up to look like lofts, and which are so common today in San Diego, local firm Public built a huge concrete box at the core of the 106-unit building. The 100,000-square-foot structure then steps down to the east to address the neighborhood.

The infill glazing system cladding the core is made up of a varied pattern of small and large glazed squares. All are very transparent, but highly energy-efficient, with a U-value of .41. To further animate the facade, Public hung an irregularly spaced clear tempered glass screen system over the project’s west-facing balconies. The screen is fitted with a perforated vinyl film—similar to the films used to create many billboards—that displays a sepia-toned photo-abstraction of live oak trees, created by photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann. Not only does the screen add complexity to the building, but its shading helped the building pass its state-mandated requirements for solar gain.

When the film needs to be replaced in about five years, the firm hopes the developer will hold a call for entries to find a new artist, thus ensuring a new look for the building. “Our only agreement with the city is that the new image not be distasteful or commercial,” said firm principal James Gates. The building has been a hit, and is fully leased, despite being completed just prior to the recent economic doldrums. “We’re very proud of what we were able to get for the money,” said Gates.

Sam Lubell is AN’s California editor.

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Getting Dense

In last year’s developers issue, we focused on California’s highrises: the most obvious indication that the state is finally embracing infill density over sprawl. Yet in fact, most of California’s density is forming at a much lower altitude, in mixed-use projects within commercial corridors.

Mixed-use projects may not be universally embraced (fears of congestion and disruption of the local character are common), but their diversity and size often significantly bolster neighborhood vibrancy and efficiency while keeping development from spreading further away. Scales and solutions vary widely, of course, but you’ll notice in our roundup of projects across the state that many involve top-tier architecture firms and sensitive urban solutions like public plazas, street-level retail, sustainable design, live/work units, underground parking, and terraced and divided massing—an indicator that development doesn’t have to mean destruction of a neighborhood. Many people point out that locating new buildings on commercial boulevards rather than in the midst of residential areas is the best way to absorb the state’s staggering growth without intensely affecting people’s living environments. Locating them near mass transit is another tool, although that option is still slow to come in many parts of California.

And of all the mixed-use projects we’ve seen, many of the best come from the same place: West Hollywood. Thanks to a design-savvy and discerning planning commission and planning department, recent infrastructure improvements, a clear master plan, a population knowledgeable about aesthetics, and a proactive urban designer, John Chase, the area has attracted top design talent and is home to an enviable roster of mixed-use projects. Most are going up in its commercial districts along Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. This is not to say that things have been easy: Just uttering the word “development” in many WEHO circles invites violent protest, and last summer, the city passed interim ordinances limiting the scale of development until further analysis is completed. But this just makes the scope of work here all the more impressive. Let’s face it, growth is inevitable, so we might as well grow the right way.

Produced by Sam Lubell with contributions from Danielle Rago and Helen Te.

ALL IMAGES COURTESY RESPECTIVE DEVELOPERS

 

West Hollywood


SMB28
Location: 8120 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects
Developer: Pacific Development Partners, LLC/Walgreen Co. Joint Venture
Size: 120,000 sq. ft.
Completion Date: Spring 2009

Not your usual Walgreens, this project includes ground-level retail and 28 units with private gardens above. The project will be covered with a skin composed of stabilized aluminum foam.  


SUNSET/DOHENY HOTEL
Location: 9040 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Eric Owen Moss Architects
Developer: Weintraub Financial Services
Size: 187,710 sq. ft.
Completion: 2011

Featuring Moss’ off-kilter floorplates and hard-edged forms, this retail, hotel, and residential project is built around an 11-story hotel with a glazed curtain wall. The smaller residential block will enclose small public and private courtyards. 


SUNSET TIME
Location: 8430 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Kanner Architects
Developer: Combined Properties
Size: 225,000 sq. ft.
Completion: In design

The project includes a hotel, condominiums, a cafe, retail spaces, and an entertainment venue. The five-, six-, and seven-story hotel features maze-like, projecting floorplates. The residential portions of the project are much lower-scale and inconspicuous, terracing downhill from the site.


MELROSE TRIANGLE
Location: 9040-9098 Santa Monica Blvd., 603-633 Almont Dr., and 9001-9021 Melrose Ave.
Architect: Studio One Eleven and Perkowitz+Ruth Architects
Developer: The Charles Company
Size: 250,000 sq. ft.
Completion: In design

This mini-city is marked by large roof overhangs, inset windows, and large bays. The project includes several floors of shopping—much of it outdoors—a parking garage, and apartments.


GROVEWOOD GARDEN LOFTS
Location: 1342 Hayworth Ave.
Architect: Pugh + Scarpa
Developer: Grovewood Properties
Size: 28,000 sq. ft.
Completion: Spring 2009

With 16 units of luxury condominiums over a 36-car garage, these stacked townhouses are oriented to create two landscaped courtyards: One faces the street, while the other creates a communal front entry space for residents. A perforated copper skin wraps the facades.


8801 SUNSET BLVD
Location: 8801 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Gensler
Developer: Centrum Sunset
Size: 53,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2011/2012

Built on the site of the legendary Tower Records building, this development includes office and retail space, as well as a David Barton spa and gym. The project wraps around the corner of Sunset Boulevard with a repetitive pattern of large concrete facade columns, due to be lined with large billboards.


LA PEER HOTEL & PRIVATE RESIDENCES
Location: 627 North La Peer
Architect: Moule & Polyzoides Architects
Developer: A.J. Khair
Size: 63,000 sq. ft., 8 condominium units, 69 hotel rooms
Completion: 2010

The project shows how traditional design can be done in a stylish way, with both Spanish and Art Deco motifs and a variety of scales and massing, all aligned with the street grid in a very urban manner. 


SIERRA BONITA
Location: 7350 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Tighe Architecture
Developer: West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation
Size: 5 floors, 42 units
Completion: 2008

The project includes 42 affordable, one-bedroom units and retail on the ground floor. An outdoor courtyard provides a garden for residents, and each apartment will have its own private outdoor space.


KING’S ROAD
Location: 8350-8364 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Developer: Combined Properties
Size: 20 units with commercial space at grade
Completion: Entitlements completed spring 2008

The project reflects adjacent residential zoning by stepping down and breaking up the rear facade with private courtyards. The ground level combines retail and on-grade parking. 


HANCOCK LOFTS
Location: 901 Hancock Ave./8759 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Developer: CIM Group
Size: 133,476 sq. ft.
Completion: Late 2008

The 77,500 sq. ft. project features 11,000 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial retail and restaurant, with 40 housing units (33 condos and 7 affordable). Live-work housing units are proposed at ground level.


WEST KNOLL LOFTS
Location: Santa Monica Blvd. and West Knoll Drive
Architect: Aleks Istanbullu Architects
Developer: Seven Sandmore
Size: 8,700 sq. ft. of ground floor retail, 52,000 sq. ft. of residential space
Completion: 2010

This four-story building contains residential blocks sitting above a continous story of sidewalk retail. Nineteen condominiums are located above, separated by 15-foot-wide courtyards.


MOVIETOWN
Location: 7302 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Van Tilburg, Banvard + Soderbergh
Developer: Casden Movietown
Size: 526,800 sq. ft.
Completion: 2012

This sustainable project contains 20,000 sq. ft. of retail (including a new Trader Joe’s), 304 condominiums, and 76 senior rental units. A public plaza and streetside retail are planned to create a walking-friendly environment.

 

 

 

Best of the Rest


CENTRAL PLACE PHASE II
Location: San Jose
Architect: Brand + Allen Architects
Developer: Wilson Meany Sullivan
Size: 561,472 sq. ft.
Completion: 2013

Part of the master plan to revitalize downtown San Jose, the project, which includes residential and retail elements, encloses and activates a public plaza fronted by the San Jose Repertory Theater.


1 KEARNY
Location: 1 Kearny, San Francisco
Architect: Charles F. Bloszies
Developer/Owner: 1 Kearny
Size: 10-floor addition to 12-floor building, 120,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2009

Including office and ground floor retail, this renovation of a 1902 building uses the surrounding structures as seismic “bookends” for the original building. The new addition is clad in a glass-and-aluminum curtain wall.


55 LAGUNA
Location: 55 Laguna St., San Francisco
Architect: Van Meter Williams Pollack
Developer: AF Evans Development
Size: 450 residential units, 10,000 sq. ft. of community facility space, 5,000 sq. ft. retail
Completion: 2012

This redevelopment of the former UC Berkeley Extension Campus will include new construction and the preservation of historically significant buildings.


JACK LONDON SQUARE RENOVATION
Location: 55 Harrison St., Oakland
Architect: RMW in Association with Steve Worthington
Developer: Ellis Partners
Size: 1 million sq. ft.
Completion Phase I: 2009

The square is undergoing a $300 million redevelopment that includes restaurants, entertainment, new parking facilities, and Class A office space.


MANCHESTER PACIFIC GATEWAY
Location: Broadway and North Harbor Dr., San Diego
Architect: Tucker Sadler
Developer: Manchester Financial
Size: 3.95 million sq. ft.
Completion: Proposed

Located on the North Embarcadero of the San Diego Bay, the project—if approved—will include almost 4 million sq. ft. of hospitality, office, and retail space.


PANORAMA PLACE
Location: Roscoe Blvd. and Tobias Ave., Panorama City
Architects: Nadel Architects
Developer: Maefield
Size: 1 million sq. ft.
Completion: Fall 2009

This development will feature a three-level vertical lifestyle center with over 415,000 sq. ft. of retail and five levels of parking. It will also include big-box retail and smaller street-front shops.


ANAHEIM CENTER STREET PROMENADE
Location: Anaheim
Architect: RTKL, Kanner Architects, 30th St. Architects, RTK, and MBH
Developer: CIM Group
Size: 129 condominium units, 276 apartment units, 56,803 sq. ft. of street-level retail, and 32,056 sq. ft. of office space
Completion: In design

This project includes 500 housing units, plus retail and restaurant space surrounding downtown Anaheim’s main street.


9900 WILSHIRE
Location: 9900 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
Architect: Richard Meier & Partners Architects
Developer: Project Lotus
Size: 203 units, 895,000 sq. ft. (residential), 16,000 sq. ft. (retail)
Completion: 2011

Designed to be sensitive to the neighboring hotel and golf course, the project is located on an 8-acre site between Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, and constitutes the western entrance to Beverly Hills.


WYVERNWOOD APARTMENTS
Location: 2901 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights, Los Angeles
Architect: Torti Gallas
Developer: Fifteen Group
Size: 6.1 million sq. ft.
Completion: 2020

The $2 billion plan calls for redeveloping the 1930s apartment complex to include 4,400 residential units, 300,000 sq. ft. of retail and commercial space, as well as 9 acres of publicly accessible open space.


COLUMBIA SQUARE
Location: 6121 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: Johnson Fain
Developer: Apollo Real Estate Advisors
Size: 380,000 sq. ft. of offices, 20,000 sq. ft. of retail, 330 units, 125-room hotel
Completion: In design

Located at the historic CBS/Columbia Square Studio site, a 35-story residential tower and 16-story office tower rise from a ground floor mix of hotel, retail, and open space.


BLVD6200
Location: 6200 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: VTBS
Developer: Clarett Group
Size: 1.12 million sq. ft.
Completion: 2011

Spanning both sides of Hollywood Boulevard on a 7-acre parcel are nine buildings of rental housing, with affordable units, public open space, live/work lofts, and retail. The project, which is seeking LEED certification, is next to the legendary Art Deco Pantages Theater.


PASEO PLAZA
Location: 5661 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: Gruen Associates
Developer: Continental Development
Size: 375 units, 377,000 sq. ft. (retail), 1680 parking spaces
Completion: 2010

Located on a 5.5-acre city block, this project incorporates a historic department store. Much of the retail is street-facing, and the buildings include high-rise, stoop housing, and town houses to create an urban ambience.


NOHO ART WAVE
Location: Chandler Blvd. and Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
Architect: AC Martin
Developer: Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group
Size: 1.75 million sq. ft.
Completion: Proposed

Planned around a multi-modal transit station, the proposal includes a central plaza and an arcade linking the proposed grid of the project blocks, which respond in scale and configuration to the existing urban fabric.


6230 YUCCA
Location: Hollywood
Architect: Ehrlich Architects
Developer: Second Street Ventures
Size: 115,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2010/2011

One block from the historic Hollywood and Vine intersection, this 16-story tower won entitlement after a battle with nearby Capitol Records. It includes eight live-work townhomes, 85 residential units in the tower, and 13,500 sq. ft. of creative commercial space.


W HOLLYWOOD HOTEL & RESIDENCES
Location: 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: HKS Hill Glazier Studio
Developer: Gatehouse Capital Corp. and Legacy Partners
Size: 330,000 sq. ft. condo, 300,000 sq. ft. hotel, 50,000 sq. ft. retail
Completion: 2009

This project includes a 305-room W hotel, 143 luxury W for sale residences, 375 luxury apartments, and street-level retail.

 

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Lord & Taylor Landmarked

The Connecticut Historic Preservation Council voted unanimously on July 2 to list Stamford’s Lord & Taylor store, designed in 1969 by the architect Andrew Geller, to the State Register of Historic Places. The listing of this midcentury modern retail building comes just months after the building’s owners, the National Realty and Development Company (NRDC), submitted plans before the Stamford Zoning Board to demolish the 155,000-square-foot building located at 110 High Ridge Road and construct a 300,000-square-foot shopping mall and two multilevel parking structures on the 12-acre site.

John Orrico, president of NRDC, said the building’s listing on the State Register is “completely misguided.” NRDC and Lord & Taylor submitted an opposition statement to the nomination, arguing that the building does not meet the regulatory criteria for listing because it is not of state and local importance. The statement also notes that the interior of the building, which is “particularly important in the context of a department store,” was compromised during two extensive gut renovations. In a letter to the State Historic Preservation Officer, Orrico wrote that “there is a small group that is opposing this project, and I believe that, in their effort to try to block us, they are using your office as a pawn.”

“As happens very often,” said Renee Kahn, founder and director of the Historic Neighborhood Preservation Program in Stamford, “you look at a building more carefully” when it is threatened. After reviewing the extensive research submitted in favor of the building’s nomination to the State Register, Kahn said she has “no question as to the building’s significance.” In a letter of support for the building’s nomination, Richard Longstreth, director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at George Washington University, wrote that the case for the store is “quite straightforward, based on the significance of the company it has housed, the nature of its siting, the firm that designed the building, and as a now rare survivor of its type.”

Geller, best known for the playful modern beach houses he built in the Hamptons in the 1950s and 1960s, designed the three-story retail building while working as the in-house architect for the Manhattan-based design firm Raymond Loewy/William Snaith Inc., successor to the firm Raymond Loewy Associates. The store, featuring white-on-white linen-fold concrete panels, concave curved facades, and cantilevered roofs, was the last of 12 suburban Lord & Taylor stores to be designed by the firm, and it is the only freestanding one that remains in Connecticut today.

Jake Gorst, Geller’s grandson and an architectural historian, says it “feels good to have a victory.” The fate of the building, however, still lies in limbo. The State Register is an honorary designation and does not prevent a property owner from demolishing a structure. After public hearings in January, NRDC withdrew its original redevelopment proposal, construction of which required an amendment to the city’s zoning text. The company is currently modifying its plans to resubmit to the Zoning Board, said Orrico. The scale and design of the new plan, and the impact, if any, the State Register listing will have on the board’s decision, remain to be seen.

Good Housekeeping

In its ongoing effort to reform the Department of Buildings in the wake of the two crane accidents earlier this year, the City Council passed three new pieces of legislation yesterday cracking down on what the council considers minor but important issues within the construction industry. The three bills passed by a unanimous vote of 45-0.

The first bill (text) tackles so-called housekeeping violations, basically the order and cleanliness of a given worksite. “There is a direct correlation between sites with housekeeping violations and serious life-threatening accidents,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said during today’s meeting. “We believe that by policing these sites, we can keep them from going down this path.”

The bill categorizes any housekeeping violations, such as tripping hazards, unsecured material, or unsafe storage of combustibles, as “immediately hazardous,” the highest level of violation. This means that such a violation will trigger a stop-work order and can result in fines if not addressed. Quinn put it simply: “When materials are not taken care of, they can injure people. We want that to stop.”

The next bill (text) addresses problems with vacant buildings, which, if unoccupied for over five years, will be inspected for structural soundness, with follow-up inspections occurring every five years. If violations or unsafe conditions are discovered, the owner is required to address them immediately or face fines.

Melissa Mark-Viverito, the representative for East Harlem and the lead sponsor on the bill, proposed the action after two such buildings in her district collapsed. “When we talk about construction safety, we shouldn’t just be talking about new construction and work sites but also existing buildings, and especially those that have been neglected,” Mark-Viverito said.

The final bill (text) requires that retaining walls be regulated in the same manner as building facades, putting them under increased scrutiny, oversight, and safety restrictions that strengthen the city’s ability to induce necessary repairs. Councilmember Robert Jackson, who introduced the bill, noted that it was long overdue, after the collapse of a retaining wall three years ago in his district, but he was happy to have it finally pass. “This legislation is a no-brainer,” Jackson said.

But if that was the case, then why did it, and all the other recent reforms, require a disaster to finally pass them? Councilmember Tony Avella, an industry critic, chocked it up to politics, adding that a great deal more work remains to be done. “These are good bills,” Avella said, “but there are a number of good bills and initiatives that are languishing in the DOB due to a lack of action on the part of the Speaker.”

A spokesperson for Quinn declined to address Avella’s complaints, but did say: “The bills passed are part of an extensive review of the construction safety in the city. We have passed several bills so far, and several will be passed in the near future.”

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New Scenery for the World’s Stage
The U.N. complex comprises three principal buildings: the Secretariat tower, the domed General Assembly Hall -- built in 1949 and 1950 -- and the Dag Hammarskjold Library.
Ben Murphy

The cool modernist ensemble of United Nations buildings that Wallace K. Harrison called a “workshop for peace” will soon be a workshop for long-overdue renovations. After breaking ground last month on the northern lawn of the U.N. complex for a 175,000-square-foot concrete and steel temporary building to house U.N. conferences and the office of the secretary-general until at least 2014, U.N. officials will relocate thousands of staffers from buildings completed in 1950.

Actual work on one of the world’s most recognizable architectural ensembles comes after ten contentious years of preparation and a series of different plans for overhauling the asbestos-filled structures, which have serious leak problems and antiquated mechanical infrastructure. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, security concerns gave greater urgency to planning for any potential attack on the 18-acre site.

In 1998, the U.N. General Assembly, which represents all the organization’s 192 member states, voted to completely overhaul the buildings, which had undergone ad hoc alterations over five decades. An initial plan envisioned renovating the complex section by section while staff remained on-site, to minimize the need to pay high rents in New York’s booming real estate market. An alternate scheme would have involved building a second 35-story U.N. tower on a playground immediately south of the current ensemble. In 2001, an expanded visitors’ center was proposed under the North Lawn. The current plan relies on placing the U.N. leadership and conferences in a temporary structure on U.N. property, which will be demolished after renovation is completed, and locating most of the personnel in leased office space.

The cost for the entire six-year project, called the capital master plan, is estimated at $1.9 billion. The U.N.’s three principal buildings, designed by a team that included Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace K. Harrison, were built in 1949 and 1950 for $65 million on land bought for $8.5 million by the Rockefeller family and then donated to the international organization. A fourth building, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, opened in 1961.

Steven Pressler of Skanska, the construction manager, characterized the ensemble as “old, in need of a facelift,” and called the project “a big demolition job with a lot of asbestos thrown in; then building it back is almost building it like new.” Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering is the lead architect for historic preservation, and R.A. Heintges is consulting on the restoration of the curtain wall. HLW International is developing interior design guidelines and is designing the North Lawn building.

The Woodrow Wilson Reading Room, designed by Harrison, Abramovitz and Harris, holds the records of the League of Nations and is located in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library building, dedicated in 1961. Though not open to the public, the reading room, with its distinctive white pine paneling, will be carefully preserved.

“As with all institutions, the last place they wanted to put their scarce resources was in fixing up their own house, so the U.N. delayed the decision, because resources are scarce, and their mission is extremely broad, but after 9/11 it raised the priority of making this project happen,” said Michael Adlerstein, the architect who now heads the capital master plan. Adlerstein had previously been vice president of the New York Botanical Garden and was a student of George Dudley, author of the most comprehensive study of the design and construction of the U.N. Adlerstein’s predecessor, John Frederick Reuter IV, quit two years ago in frustration over the increasingly political nature of the process. “I am interested in building buildings, not ‘selling’ them,” Reuter said. “Perhaps the biggest challenge has been to convince member states, and particularly the host country, that the physical condition of the United Nations Headquarters is not a political matter." 

Selling the renovation has indeed been a challenge. The plan required the unanimous approval of the 192 U.N. member states in the General Assembly, and winning support in New York and Washington was yet another battle. In 2004, the organization held an architecture competition, restricted to Pritzker Prize winners, for a 35-story tower that would provide swing space for staff displaced during construction and eventually house U.N. offices that are now in rental buildings, at below-market rents, controlled by a public firm called the United Nations Development Corporation. Richard Meier, one of those considered, dropped out of the running, calling the cramped First Avenue site inappropriate for a building of that scale. (He subsequently designed four towers nearby on the East River waterfront for the developer Sheldon Solow; these are still in the approvals stage.) The commission was awarded to Fumihiko Maki of Japan, whose sleek grey column was chosen over entries by Foster + Partners and Herzog & de Meuron.









FROM TOP: THE MAP ROOM, WITH ITS RETRO-LOOKING FLAT FILES, IS STILL OF VITAL USE TO SETTLE TERRITORIAL DISPUTES; A RECEPTION ROOM THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN UPDATED WITH A MORE CONTEMPORARY DECOR; CONFERENCE ROOM NO. 5 WILL BE COMPLETELY RENOVATED; THE SADLY OUTMODED BROADCASTING CONTROL ROOM WILL ALSO RECEIVE AN OVERHAUL.
 

The site, however, was a concrete patch called the Robert Moses Playground, and construction required a vote by the New York State Senate to enable “alienation” of parkland, even though the plan provided for a riverbank esplanade of comparable size in exchange. The local New York City Council member, Dan Garodnick, points out that his district has the least parkland in the city.

Elected officials found that attacking the U.N. was even more effective than attacking the French. At the end of 2004, the State Senate delayed a vote, citing a history of unpaid parking tickets by U.N. personnel, alleged anti-semitism, and opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “I view Mr. [Kofi] Annan’s stonewalling on the release of oil-for-food documents to Congress as a potential cover-up for corruption and will use it as leverage to deny passage of state legislation,” vowed State Senator Martin Golden in a letter to the New York Times in January 2006. Golden carried the day. The matter never came to a vote, despite support from Mayor Bloomberg, then-governor George Pataki, and the Bush administration. “It was politics, pure politics,” said Edward Rubin, an architect who chairs the Land Use Committee of Community Board 6 in Manhattan.

In 2005, the ever-opinionated Donald Trump weighed in. After building his Trump World Tower on a site overlooking the complex, he was contacted by the Swedish delegation for some informal advice. He testified before the International Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate, and suggested that the U.N. sell its East River campus and use the profits to create a new building on the site of the former World Trade Center. Trump also offered to renovate the original East Side buildings himself for $300 million, warning that U.N. costs (which he said would rise to $3 billion) had been inflated by internal “corruption and incompetence.” Part of the problem, he added, was that the organization would be extorted for short-term office space by New York landlords—”There is no worse human being on Earth, okay?” Trump said. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Trump to bid on the project, but he never filed a bid. “He would only do it if the U.N. were to have offered it to him, and under the rules of procurement, it would be literally impossible to source a project of this size to a single vendor,” said Adlerstein.

Some critics even wondered whether the iconic buildings were worth preserving. “I always found this futurist architectural experiment tacky,” said former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, who was frustrated in his effort to link U.S. support for the renovation to a general reform of the U.N.’s procurement process. “I found the General Assembly [building] to be vaguely fascist,” he added.

Even those who admire its architecture still call the complex a firetrap. In testimony before Congress in 2005, a U.N. official predicted that a serious explosion at the U.N. would spray asbestos throughout the neighborhood. And since it doesn’t even have a sprinkler system, the U.N. fails to meet New York City fire code.

Most of the renovation work, when completed, will be invisible to the visitor, said Adlerstein, although the sleek wood-paneled Security Council Chamber and the General Assembly will get interiors that are closer to their original bright colors than today’s muted seating. Since the manufacturers of some original materials are no longer in business, and certain woods used in conference rooms came from endangered species, approximations will be made, architects say.

The dramatic change will be in the east and west facades of the Secretariat tower. The leaking, corroded aluminum curtain wall will be removed to replace decaying surfaces and increase its energy efficiency. In the process, a layer of thermal film between the double-pane windows will also be stripped. “The original building was sans film, and had a cooler look. The film underneath the curtain wall had a bluish tint. After removing that film, the building will look more silvery and more transparent,” said Steven Pressler of Skanska.

Transparency—both literal and figurative—has always been an issue at the U.N. Surfing through U.N.-related chat on the web reveals the persistent view that the U.N. belongs to the “why pay less” school. Yet Adlerstein notes that by emptying each building before renovation, the project cut two years off of construction and saved $100 million, which will cover swing space rent in Manhattan and Queens. Additional savings come from the U.N.’s exemption from sales tax. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s belief, the project, he stressed, “was never a runaway train. It was a stalled train. The concern was that it wasn’t moving fast enough.”

But not so fast as to outrun auditors, Adlerstein explained, noting that value-engineering is still in progress. “We are being audited by several different groups at all times… Each member state is entitled to audit us and several do,” he said. “We have eternal audits.” With luck, though, diplomacy will carry the day.

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Lost City in the Woods



Architect and photographer Christopher Payne is fascinated with the afterlives of buildings. A chronicler of ruins, he has photographed disused factories on the East River, the High Line on the West Side, outmoded transit electrical substations throughout Manhattan, and, for the past few years, shuttered insane asylums and state hospitals across the country. Payne’s latest subject is the buildings and landscape of North Brother, a derelict hospital island in the Bronx under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, far removed from the cycles of development and change that are transforming the city. Evidence of habitation and of the island’s checkered history is literally disappearing into the woods.

In the 1880s, the island was home to a contagious disease hospital and was a model of reform-era hygiene and efficiency, earning the praise of the muckraking journalist Jacob Riis. Among its inhabitants was “Typhoid” Mary Mallon, the cook and notorious source of several outbreaks, who died there in 1938. The island was also the site of one of the nation’s worst nautical disasters, the 1904 downing of the steamship General Slocum, which sank just offshore carrying German immigrants on a holiday outing. Nurses and patients on the island rescued nearly 250 passengers, but more than one thousand people died. The tuberculosis hospital was completed in 1943, but was quickly repurposed to house World War II veterans who were attending college in the city through the GI Bill. By 1952, the island became a treatment facility for juvenile drug addicts before being abandoned altogether in 1964.

Today North Brother has largely slipped from public consciousness. It does not, for example, appear on the MTA Subway map: The place where the 29-acre island would be shows only water. “The city has an uncountable number of histories and events that are lodged, hidden away in some archive or someone’s memory,” said Randall Mason, a professor of historic preservation at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the island extensively. “But things have a way of coming back; they resurface.” He cites the African Burial Ground as an example. “Places become invisible if they’re not used,” he said. The Parks Department classifies North Brother as a nature preserve. Department representatives visit only a few times a year and the public is prohibited because of safety concerns.

While photographing sites for the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Payne first saw the island from afar. “I felt like I had found a lost city in a jungle, and yet here I was in New York City,” Payne said. His boat, he realized, was too big to get close to the island’s ruined dock. “Here was this lost world, a hundred feet away, that I couldn’t get to.” On a second trip, he found its buildings—a hospital, power plant, boiler, morgue, housing, cistern, and other infrastructure—receding into the landscape. “It’s strange to look at old photos and see how it functioned, how clear it was, a modern, open campus,” he said. “It’s amazing how quickly Nature reclaims what’s Hers.” In his photographs, trees sprout from the foundation line of the solitary staff house as layers of brick peel away from the facades. Brightly painted interiors are visible through the shards of glass in the robust-looking art deco tuberculosis hospital.

For the Parks Department, the island’s most important resident is the Black-crowned Night Heron, a rare bird that has slowly been returning to the region since the passage of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s. North Brother is part of a chain of small islands throughout the region called the “harbor herons complex,” according to Bill Tai, director of natural resources for Parks. The much smaller South Brother Island came into the Parks portfolio this November, when the federal government bought it for $2 million and turned it over to the city. Acknowledging the island’s history and its crumbling architecture, Tai called North Brother “the most interesting of the heron islands.” He added, however, that “maybe its highest and best use is to preserve it for wildlife.” Parks is sympathetic to the island’s history and the concerns of preservationists, and according to Tai, the department is hoping to do a partial restoration of the dock to make it occasionally accessible for small groups, and has secured $500,000 in funding toward that goal. Restoration of one of the smaller buildings as an interpretive center may be possible, but he noted, “We have very reduced budget forecasts, so it’s not a very high priority.”

In this era of public-private partnerships, piecemeal development, and limited public resources, the state of limbo in which the island sits is not altogether uncommon. The scale and significance of its architecture, once accessible by frequent ferry service, is a disquieting reminder that such limitations were not always commonplace. For Payne, abandoned public buildings hold a particular attraction, not just for the romance of their ruin but as vestiges of civic aspirations long since jettisoned.

Eavesdrop: Alissa Walker

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s new planning department director John Rahaim is looking for a new apartment after his boyfriend Lance Farber destroyed their shared residence by damaging antique furnishings, smearing the walls with canned tomatoes, and setting a mattress on fire late last month. But this wasn’t just any old PacHeights rental—Rahaim was living at the Dennis T. Sullivan Memorial Fire Chief’s Home, a 1926 landmark sometimes offered to city employees in need of transitional housing. A million dollar bail has been posted for Farber, who fled the scene and was arrested later that night on suspicion of driving under the influence. While support for Rahaim, who was appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom last September, has been overwhelmingly positive, one public official, fire commission vice president Victor Makras, is calling for Rahaim to cover the estimated $30,000 in damages. And Makras would seem an expert on uninhabitable apartments in his role as president of property management company Makras Real Estate: A slew of negative reviews by his former tenants on the website Yelp range from “negligent with security and repairs” to “this is the epitome of a slum lord.”

THE TWIN TOWERS
Architects coast to coast are murmuring about a tower proposed in February for Seattle by Portland-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca that bears more than a passing resemblance to Robert A. M. Stern’s Tour Carpe Diem announced in January in Paris. The glass towers both feature double-take-inducing faceted facades of triangular planes that angle in and out. While we cross-referenced the employee contact lists of each firm to find out which disgruntled architect lifted the blueprints along with his walking papers, several responses to an ArchNewsNow.com newsletter reveal that there are actually several more angles to the story. Keen eyes saw similar angles in Dallas’ Fountain Place byHenry Cobb of I.M. Pei & Partners (1986), I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower (1990), Lab Architecture Studio/Bate Smart‘s Federation Square, Melbourne (2002), even in the under-construction Bank of America Tower by Cook + Foxin Manhattan. Wow, we had no idea that architects were so… multi-faceted.

NOW THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT
When we got word that SBE Entertainment Group (owners of trendy LA restaurants, clubs, and other real estate) CEO Sam Nazarian was named to SCI-Arc’s board of directors last month, we only had one question: How long until Spencer Pratt goes back to school for his masters in architecture? Let us explain. SBE’s got a recurring gig on the is-it-real-or-is-it-fake docudrama The Hills (it’s fake), one of the hottest shows on television, since star Heidi Montag“works” there. Watch closely (because you know you want to) and you’ll notice SBE-affiliated institutions like the Philippe Starck-designed Katsuya fleet seem to appear on-screen a little more frequently than other LA locations. Therefore, it’s only logical that next season will see a fascinating plot twist that results in a scantily-clad catfight in SCI-Arc’s parking lot. Or Nazarian could help out the unemployed Lauren Conrad, who left her “job” at Teen Vogue at the end of last season. Maybe there’s an opening in the SCI-Arc publications department? 

SEND TIPS, GOSSIP, AND PARTY SOUVENIRS TOSLUBELL@ARCHPAPER.COM. 
 

Hoist Me Up

At the Engineering Transparency conference at Columbia University in September, Laurie Hawkinson, of Smith-Miller+Hawkinson Architects, quipped that with all the glass we are using these days, how will we ever clean it? Her discussion of window washing began and ended there, but the comment revealed an issue that is a growing concern for architects around the world. As buildings use more glazing and become more complex in form, the systems for accessing their facades—not just for cleaning, but also for repair—have had to keep pace. Not that there have been any major revolutions in access technologies, but architects, one hopes, are taking facade access into consideration much earlier in the design process: If you can build that bravely curved or drastically angled envelope, you had better know how to get up there to keep it looking handsome (in an economically feasible way) throughout the life of the building.

Facade access technology has remained basically the same for the past 40 or 50 years. As was done in the time of the Seagram Building, you still hang a basket over the edge of the parapet, drop it down on ropes, and haul it back up. But two things have changed. For one, never-before-seen building profiles and rooftops crowded with mechanical systems have challenged facade access engineers to fit their machines within tighter spaces while pushing them to attain spans of over 100 feet and drops in excess of 1,000 feet. And secondly, this pushing of the envelope (along with code changes) has brought about a convergence of the systems used in the United States and those employed in other countries.

As with many aspects of the building industry, facade access technology developed along different lines in the United States than it did in Europe. This divergence in approach centered on one essential point: Where to put the hoist that raises and lowers the basket? In Europe they favored mounting the hoist on the roof of the building and powering descent and lift from there, whereas here, with our love of individualism and need to be in control, we decided to put the hoist right in the basket.

Both methods have their virtues, of course, and are suitable for a variety of applications. The machinery for self-powered baskets, for example, is quite a bit cheaper than its roof-mounted counterpart. But roof-mounted systems have become more sophisticated and versatile—employing cranes with telescoping booms and articulating heads—capable of reaching 100 percent of a building’s envelope no matter how curvaceous it may be. This factor alone has made these systems a necessity for much of today’s architecture. A quick glance around the recently completed high-profile buildings in New York, including the Hearst Tower, InterActive Corp’s headquarters, and The New York Times Building, will reveal a spate of these European devices. The roof-mounted systems are also more suitable for tall buildings since they store all excess rope, wire, or other necessary tools on the roof. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) code states that rope cannot dangle beneath the window cleaning platform, meaning that self-powered systems must hold all excess rope on the basket. And when an elevation is very high, the amount of rope it will take to reach all the way down can begin to outweigh the lifting capacity of standard hoists.

Someone very recently noticed this problem and, despite the grumblings of the penny-pinching American building market, decided to do something about it. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A120.1-2006 Revised Standard demands that buildings in excess of 490 feet use a system where the hoist is anchored on the rooftop. Of course, the vast majority of buildings going up across the country are well under 490 feet, and the codes that govern facade access, like most codes in the building industry, are self-enforcing and loosely policed. Furthermore, where there is one code that demands you do the utmost, there is another that allows you to put forth the least amount of effort, not to mention upfront capital cost. The International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) I-14 Safety Standard allows buildings under 300 feet tall to employ boatswain’s, or bosun’s, chairs—basically a plank dangling from a rope on which a window washer sits.

In fairness, the IWCA standard was targeted at building owners who were not equipping their roofs with any system, an all too common phenomenon that led to workers tying off to vent pipes and then falling to their deaths. Liability concerns aside, facade access consultants, as a rule, do not recommend bosun’s chairs. “Facade access isn’t just about window washing, but about building maintenance,” said Keenan Potter of Lerch Bates, one of the country’s largest facade access consulting firms. “In bosun’s chairs you can’t replace glass, just wash windows.” His point is an important one for those who think about the life cycle of buildings. While expensive, the price of sophisticated facade access systems is nominal when compared to overall building costs. And they get even cheaper when you consider that in 15 to 20 years, when your mullions begin to leak, you won’t have to cover your building in scaffolding just to patch it up.

Grimshaw to Green The Bronx

A brownfield in the South Bronx is about to be greened, thanks to a sustainable housing competition conducted by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and AIA New York. An architect-developer team consisting of Grimshaw Architects, Dattner Architects, Phipps Houses, and Jonathan Rose Companies won the competition with a proposal to design 202 units of housing along with commercial and open space on a long, narrow 60,000-acre site. The city is giving the property, a vacant lot and abandoned rail right of way, to the development team for $1 to underwrite the project’s affordability requirement.

Named Via Verde, or the Green Way, the project includes an 18-story tower, midrise units, and townhouses, “threaded like a ribbon through the site,” said Vincent Chang, senior architect at Grimshaw’s New York office. More than half of the housing, which is a mix of rentals and units for sale, will be reserved for low-income residents, with the remaining portion set aside for moderateand middle-income residents.“We were keen to create a sense of continuity across unit types,” he said, though the facades of each building volume will use varied materials in a prefabricated, extra-insulated cladding system.

The buildings are arranged around the perimeter of the site, creating a courtyard in the middle. Green roofs and gardens are designed for each building, and the terraced building heights allow for travel between each building volume. Geothermal groundloops for heating and cooling, photovoltaics, daylighting and cross ventilation, and an on-site farmer’s market will be employed so that the project can achieve LEED Gold certification. While this might seem like using every trick in the green bag, Chang stressed that the approach is “holistic.” Practical steps such as granting residents control over the HVAC systems in their units so they can better monitor their individual energy usage combine innovative sustainable technology with thrift and common sense.

“We thought a lot about the sense of community and vibrancy in an urban environment,” said Chang, “however, in those environments access to nature is often lacking, so that really became the driving force of the design.” The team is working with the landscape architect Lee Weintraub to design a series of passive, productive, and recreational gardens, green roofs, and open spaces that will be open to every unit, which will also provide insulation and reduce storm water run-off.

The Grimshaw/Dattner/Phipps/Rose team prevailed over four other notable teams, including: Rogers Marvel with BRP Development Team and the Bluestone Organization; Magnusson Architecture and Planning and Kiss + Cathcart with the Dermot Company, Nos Quedamos, and Melrose Associates; Behnisch Architekten and studioMDA with seg, Full Spectrum, and Hamlin Ventures; and Cook + Fox with Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation and Durst Sunset. Thirty-two architect-developer teams responded to the request for qualifications, which were reviewed by a jury that included Enrique Norton, principal, TEN Arquitectos; David Burney, Commissioner New York City Department of Design and Construction; Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr.; and Shaun Donovan, commissioner of HPD.

“Any project that adds this many units of affordable housing is going to make its mark,” said Lance Jay Brown, a professor of architecture at CUNY and one of the competition organizers. “But we feel like we raised the bar and have begun to open up the debate as to what people can expect from affordable, sustainable housing.”

“We were so honored to be among the company of the finalists,” said Chang. “We can’t wait to get started.” Construction is expected to begin in mid 2008.