Undulating birch walls create pockets of privacy in an apartment building lobby.When Boston design and fabrication firm Radlab began work on Clefs Moiré, the permanent installation in the lobby of One North of Boston in Chelsea, Massachusetts, they had relatively little to go on. They knew that the apartment building's developer wanted a pair of walls of a certain size to activate the lobby space, but that was about it. "Normally we get more information, so we can come up with a story—a concept based on the building and its requirement," said Radlab's Matt Trimble. "For this we pulled back and said, we have an opportunity to be a little more abstract about how we approach this conceptually." Inspired by moiré patterning and a harpsichord composition by J.S. Bach, the team designed and built two slatted birch walls whose undulating surfaces embody a dialog between transparency and opacity. The client's interest in achieving moments of privacy within a public space led Radlab to moiré patterning, the phenomenon in which a third pattern emerges when two other semi-transparent patterns are superimposed on one another. Trimble compares the moiré effect to standing in a cornfield. "It's not until that moment when you look at it from the perpendicular that you see the rows of corn," he said. "When you look to either side, the crossing prevents you from seeing depths." The designers decided to think about the two walls as a single volume that would later be split. "There's this potential for reading it as a single wall when you look at it from different perspectives," explained Trimble. "This made sense because the project is about viewpoint. If you're perpendicular to the wall, you see straight through it." Radlab began with a traditional approach to moiré patterning, playing with identical vertical components set askew to one another. Then they looked at J.S. Bach's Partita No. 2 in B-flat Major: Gigue. Bach's challenging composition requires the performer to cross his or her hands, the left hand playing the treble clef while the right hand plays the bass. "That became an inspiration for a way to structure and organize the two walls," said Trimble. "To think of one as being the result of a bass set of wavelengths, and the other as a treble set." The designers realized that they could modulate the metaphorical wavelengths across both the vertical and horizontal sections to create an interesting, and varied, third element. "That's where the Gigue became influential," said Trimble. "It gave us a way to create a rhythm in the wall that would pace itself." The team relied heavily on Rhino and Grasshopper both to design the installation and to plan fabrication. "We would create various iterations in 3D modeling software, then disassemble them into the flat XY plane and try to understand: how would we actually build this?" said Trimble. Simpson Gumpertz & Heger's Paul Kassabian provided crucial help with structural engineering, including designing a base plate that is invisible except when the wall is viewed from a 90-degree angle. Radlab CNC-milled the wood slats and spacers before coating them with varnish. "Fabrication was long and arduous, but it challenged us in really great ways," said Trimble. The group developed a hanging mechanism to efficiently apply fire retardant to the ribs. To prevent varnish from adhering to the points of connection between the ribs and spacers, they fabricated each spacer twice, once out of birch, and once out of chipboard. They affixed the chipboard templates to the ribs before spraying the varnish, leaving an untouched patch for the final spacer. "It was process-intensive, there was no getting around that," recalled Trimble. "But we embraced that process-intensive journey from the onset, to see if there were ways we could be creative about creating improvements to make fabrication more efficient." On site, Radlab laid down templates of the base plates to drill holes for the anchor bolts, then returned with the walls themselves. Each wall was prefabricated of four panels and assembled in the shop. "They tilted up almost like tilt-up concrete walls," said Trimble. In addition to having inspired the form of Clefs Moiré, Bach's Gigue works as a metaphor for how the finished walls perform in space. "It starts and stops abruptly," explained Trimble. "There's no crescendo or tapering of intensity. The walls do the exact same thing: there is no rising up from the ground or falling into it. They start and stop in a similar way."
Posts tagged with "Boston":
The Circus for Construction has taken its gallery-meets-event space on the road this fall, bringing a mix of dialogue and exhibitions on contemporary art and architecture practices, via a custom-built truck, to several east coast cities. After winning a competition by Storefront for Art and Architecture last May, this traveling Circus— conceived by Ann Lui, Ashley Mendelsohn, Larisa Ovalles, Craig Reschke and Ben Widger— got its wheels thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The design team— involved in every step of the process from conception to build out— transformed a 25-foot-long trailer and pick-up truck into the mobile Circus after six weeks of construction in August. Designed to adapt to different sites and programming needs, the truck is outfitted with exterior panels that serve a dual purpose as peg boards and shading components, while interior aluminum frames can be adjusted to increase the height of the space to allow for large-scale works and also for projecting images in the evening. The Circus began its journey in East Boston, and then headed north, to Buffalo, where it parked on the grounds of the abandoned Silo City, and invited local speakers to discuss “Buffalo’s Radical Re-imagining.” Next up, they’ll make stops in Downtown Boston (where AN's own Bill Menking will speak about the Architecture Lobby), and Ithaca. If this three-ring circus hasn’t rolled up to your city yet, you can stream the workshops, lectures, and live events on Circus TV, available on the project's website.
[beforeafter][/beforeafter] The Massachusetts Department of Transportation wants to transform a gritty site underneath Interstate 93 in Boston into a public space that people actually want to visit—or at least park their car. BostInno reported that the $6 million project, called “Infra-Space 1”, is part of MassDot’s wider initiative to give new life (and lighting) to vacant lots underneath the city’s elevated infrastructure. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Curbed Boston noted that the initiative has already 235 “well-lighted” parking spots. “Infra-Space 1” will upgrade an eight-acre, notoriously-dangerous site in Boston’s South End neighborhood. Now, obviously, a planned 175-car parking lot doesn’t necessarily scream urban renewal, but there are aspects of this project that could actually activate the space. The plan is essentially to first clean up the site and then prep it for possible programmatic elements. Alongside the parking lot, which has 24/7 security, the DOT wants to install “innovative” lighting systems and create an environment for art installations and performances. As BostInno noted, MassDot is fairly bullish on what else is possible at the site. The completion of the project would also include a plaza, green space, a sports facility, dog park, and a connection to an eventual section of the Boston Harborwalk.
Thanks to a new park bench design equipped with solar-powered docking stations, it's easier than ever for Bostonians to enjoy the great outdoors by staring directly into their phones. The benches, which are known as "Soofas", include two charging docks and have begun popping up in city parks as part of a pilot program. The Boston Globe reported that these Soofas were created by a MIT Media Lab spinoff called Changing Environments, which is a Verizon Innovation Program. "The creators behind the smart urban furniture, Soofa, are three women who share one vision: Getting you out of the homes and into a new, smarter and more sustainable city," the group explained on their website. These benches don't just charge phones, they are also wifi enabled allowing them to report information on local noise levels, air quality, and totally not any personal information, why are you even asking? Soofas will be at least the second set of unique benches unveiled around Boston in the past year. Last summer, AN reported on custom wood benches at Harvard, which are designed by Stoss Landscape Urbanism and resemble sliced bread. Insert pun here.
Boston’s subway system—the "T"—is currently undergoing its first expansion in nearly three decades, pushing the city's Green Line into the hip enclave of Somerville. And while the first stations in neighboring Somerville won’t open until 2017 (at the earliest), the promise of new transit is already transforming the city’s real estate market. The streetscape is coming next. Lisa Drapkin, a realtor in the city, told the Boston Globe, “If someone asks me how the market is doing in Somerville, I say you could put a cardboard outhouse near a [planned] Green Line stop and there’d be a bidding war.” With the first station still years away, prospective buyers and investors are snatching up property before prices spike. According to a report by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, cited by the Globe, property values near new stations could increase 16 to 25 percent over the next 20 years. Over the same time, average rent could jump 67 percent. This, of course, has many residents and politicians worrying that new Green Line stations will mean rampant gentrification. To that end, the city plans to build 1,200 affordable housing units by 2030, or 20 percent of their new stock. Of course, that could do very little to keep rent down overall. But Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone is optimistic that new transit options will help lower-income citizens connect to jobs, education and healthcare opportunities. “We don’t want to lose our soul," he told the paper. "We want that creative, original, diverse, that sort of funky, freaky mix of who we are.” When the new Somerville stations open, 85 percent of residents will be able to walk to the train, up from just 15 percent today. And the extension is expected to increase ridership by 45,000, and take 25,000 cars off the road. The Green Line Extension will also lay down a string of new architecture through the city as each new street-level station has a unique style and form. While none are as distinct as, say, Calatrava's New York City stegosaurus, they incorporate much more design than the standard-issue American transit depot. A little farther south in the Boston area, New Balance is building a commuter rail station as part of their new $500 million complex. A look at some of the new stations via Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership.
Rights of Way: Mobility and the City BSA Space 290 Congress Street, Suite 200 Boston Through May 26 Rights of Way: Mobility and the City examines transportation and mobility in the global city through dozens of examples of how the city is shaped by the ways people move through it. Curated by James Graham and Meredith Miller of architecture studio MILLIGRAM-office, the exhibition seeks to demonstrate that our urban environment is a result of a complicated set of negotiations between designers, policy makers, the private sector, and individual residents. The show proclaims that each resident of the metropolis has a right to mobility and access to opportunity within the urban area while showing how those public rights are often at play in the shared commons of any given city. The exhibition examines large-scale urban futures, contemporary examples of innovative design for transit and public space, historical attempts at remaking the city, and individual adaptations of mobility systems. Rights of Way also includes three projects from the 2012 Audi Urban Future Award, focusing on three mega-regions: the Pearl River Delta in China’s Guangdong Province; São Paulo, Brazil; and the Boston–Washington, D.C. (BosWash) Corridor. Displays include renderings, drawings, photography, videos, infographics, and a media library that allows visitors to delve further into the issues raised by the exhibition content.
After a continuous 36-hour concrete pour last weekend, Boston’s Millennium Tower is ready to rise above the city skyline. The day-and-a-half-long pour of 6,000 cubic yards for the Handel Architects–designed project is being called a “record concrete pour” by local press—and it probably is, at least in terms of hours spent pouring. But if you crunch the numbers, as AN did, the pour in Beantown reveals that the tower’s concrete took its sweet, sweet time to flow. We’ll explain. In February, a pour for the Wilshire Grand tower in Los Angeles set three times as much concrete—21,200 cubic yards—in just 18 hours. That’s twice the velocity of the Millennium Tower flow—or in Boston parlance, that’s wicked fast! And that pour was quite literally a record breaker, it won the Guinness World Record for "largest continuous concrete pour." Hour-by-hour, the Wilshire Grand beat the Millennium Tower with 1,178 cubic yards of concrete poured to just 166. The slow pour is not entirely surprising for the project, which has been pretty slow moving in its own right since the start. When the project is finally complete in 2016, it will be 625-feet tall, making it the tallest residential tower in the city.
A translucent polycarbonate skin transforms an early-19th century Massachusetts home.On a well-traveled street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about halfway between Harvard University and MIT, sits a house not like its neighbors. Its simple massing and pitched roof indicate old bones. But its skin is all 21st century. The house, recently renovated by Alessandro Armando and Manfredo di Robilant, is clad in translucent polycarbonate panels that reveal the structural and insulating layers beneath. For the architects, the project was an experiment in applying a cladding system designed for large-scale projects to a single-family home. “We thought this could be a possible test-bed for something more standard, something that could at least be thought of as a standard way of renovating and improving a typical American detached house,” said di Robilant. “This house is very small, but we’re now trying to fit it toward possible standardization of this approach.” When Armando and di Robilant first visited the house, its facade was in bad shape. Disintegrating wood topped by a layer of metal siding (from a 1960s update) failed to protect the home from Cambridge’s snowy winters and hot summers. The architects peeled away the old materials and thickened the facade’s profile, beginning with a layer of rigid Thermax insulating panels. Around this they built an external skeleton of TimberStrand with Parallam columns, to shore up the house’s structural system. To the timber frame they attached 40-millimeter polycarbonate panels by Rodeca. The Rodeca panels further insulate the house and offer UV protection, but they are transparent enough to provide a glimpse of what lies beneath. “The insulation panels are not directly exposed to the air, but you can see them from the outside,” said Armando. “You can see all the layers, this was one of the main features we expected to achieve, to reveal all the exterior coloring of the house.” The air gap between the inner and outer layers of insulation further boosts the home’s thermal performance, as it funnels hot air up and out before it reaches the interior. The most eye-catching feature of the renovation is a pair of floor-to-ceiling windows at the northeast corner of the house. Armando and di Robilant encased these in custom mahogany frames, then attached sliding aluminum shutters fabricated by Wisconsin contractors Bertram Corporation to the exterior of the house. The shutters are easy to slide manually along tracks attached to the house’s structural frame. Oversize wheels at the base of each shutter roll along the concrete base at the front of the house. “We made these big wheels to evoke something like a toy, a childish object,” said Armando. The slats of the shutters are spaced far apart near the top of each window to allow daylight to penetrate, and closer together near the bottom, to maximize privacy. In order to accommodate the shutters’ upper rails, Armando and di Robilant drilled holes in the adjacent Rodeca panels. The customization worked: the architects seamlessly integrated the window and panel systems without sacrificing watertightness. “The Rodeca system was born mostly thinking of big facades,” observed di Robilant. “It had been used in a number of cases with more surfaces. Here I think we tested, and I think this test was quite successful, the limits of Rodeca in terms of what is the minimum surface which is still okay for this system.” The architects analogize the facade system to a Russian samovar, or hot water boiler. Like a samovar, with its nested heating element and partly hidden hot-water pipe, the house’s facade reveals its own organizing principle to the knowing eye. “The idea was really to show the anatomy of the skin,” said di Robilant. “We focused our attention on the big window, but it’s also very much about the facade, and the discourse of the metaphor—the samovar.”
[ Editor's Note: The following is a reader-submitted response to a recent article, "Softening Boston’s City Hall." It appeared as a letter to the editor in a recent print edition, AN03_03.05.2014. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ] With regard to the proposed landscape interventions in Boston’s City Hall Plaza: This welcome news brings to mind the Illustrative Site Plan prepared by our firm in 1961 (above) to accompany the Government Center Urban Renewal Plan. As our drawing shows, we envisioned the space between Tremont Street and the new City Hall not as a paved plaza but as a quiet lawn crossed by footpaths and populated by deciduous trees, in the tradition of a New England town green. As we imagined it, this was to be the last in a series of green spaces stretching from Commonwealth Avenue to the Public Garden to the Common to the Burial Ground and thence to Government Center. Had this concept been realized, the resulting open space might have been more inviting to casual use and less vulnerable to the charge of having promised a celebratory urbanity that it could not deliver. In any case, the current effort to bring the Plaza to life through strategically placed bosques of trees is commendable. Henry N. Cobb Pei Cobb Freed & Partners New York
A list of over 100 cities has been whittled down to six. PeopleForBikes has announced the latest cities that will be the focus of the 2014 iteration of the Green Lane Project, an initiative that promotes urban bike infrastructure. The decision means that beginning in April, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Seattle will all be on the receiving end of expert assistance, training and support in efforts to become increasingly bike-friendly. The project's director Martha Roskowski said that all the selected cities demonstrated "ambitious goals and a vision for bicycling supported by their elected officials and communities." Pittsburgh and Seattle's inclusion comes as each takes steps towards establishing bike share programs within their borders. Boston is already in possession of such a system. A major focus of the Green Lane initiative is to increase the number of protected bike lanes, and Seattle, Indianapolis, and Atlanta are already in possession of lanes included in PeopleForBikes' Best Of List for 2013. Since the program was launched in 2012, the number of such lanes within the US has nearly doubled, rising from 80 to 142. Half of this growth can be found in the Green Lane Project's six original focus cities: Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. [Via Streetsblog USA.]
Boston is well known for both its thriving biotech industry and for its high concentration of universities, and now the city's two largest economic sectors are overlapping with several academic institutions shrewdly expanding their science departments. Northeastern University is one of several schools to hop on this bandwagon. The school just announced that it will build a 180,000-square-foot academic facility, called the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building (ISEB). Boston-based firm Payette won the commission to design the six-story building along with adjoining green spaces after participating in a six week design competition. The site of the building sits on the opposite side of Northeastern's main campus, severed by several rail lines. Payette has proposed constructing what they've dubbed "The Arc," a curved pedestrian bridge, that provides access between the new building and Huntington Avenue, which will also serve as a direct connection between Fenway and Roxbury. A number of landscaped paths and open "tributaries" will link the two separate neighborhoods. The ISEB will house four academic research departments: engineering, health sciences, basic sciences, and computer sciences. According to the firm, the "building massing has been organized in two main volumes; an east facing laboratory bar and a west facing office form wrapped around a central open atrium." The facility will be divided into offices, staff workstations, conference rooms, cafes, and laboratories dedicated to each academic research study. The building features a glazed curtain wall that will "be wrapped with an outer skin of fixed solar shading responding to the building orientation." This $225 million project is the first component of Northeastern's larger plan to create 600,000 square feet of space for academic research and to accommodate the university's plan to add 300 faculty positions.
From Los Angeles to Chicago, city governments across the nation have been following San Francisco’s early lead and popping up parklets on their streets, mini sidewalk-side public parks for rest, small group gatherings, and people watching. This summer, Boston joined in on the trend, installing its first parklet in Mission Hill in September and another in Jamaica Plain at Hyde Square. While these spaces have seen success in other cities, the Boston Globe reported that the Boston parklets have shown disappointing usage during what should have been their prime season. Although no scientific surveys have been collected, observations from nearby business owners, community members, and the Globe staff have indicated that these new whimsical spaces in Boston are not seeing much traffic. Boston Transportation Department planning director Vineet Gupta admitted that the city government was expecting a lot more of a parklet embrace from the community, but assured that the low usage during this fall’s debut is only a side effect of the newness of the streetscape change. Each parklet cost around $15,000 to $25,000. “This is true for parklets; it’s true for bike lanes; it’s true for bus lanes—it’s true for any innovation in the transportation world,” Gupta told the Globe. “Initially, you don’t see the kind of use that one would hope, but things pick up.” However, Boston officials are now wondering whether they should go back to the drawing board on the design and placement of these small public spaces. In San Francisco, a parklet’s success often depends on the community’s need for public seating and the site’s distance from a full-scale park or public plaza. In Chicago, some parklets have been planted with water retaining vegetation and installed in flood zones, creating a dual community benefit. Even elsewhere in Massachusetts, a Lexington parklet was first created as a bike corral to gauge public opinion. Gupta commented that the Transportation Department plans to conduct official public surveys next year for solutions to increase Boston parklet popularity. “In many instances from around the country, it’s a little bit of a learning process, and each location is unique,” he said. “We’re learning and we’re going to make modifications if necessary.”