Posts tagged with "Foster + Partners":

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Zen-otaph: Steve Jobs and the Meaning Behind Apple’s New Campus

Apple’s new campus in Cupertino has left the design community a bit perplexed. Back in September most of the architectural critics who weighed in on the issue expressed a one-two combination of shock and disappointment. Precisely because of Apple’s design bona fides and Sir Norman Foster’s involvement as the lead architect, they were expecting better. Christopher Hawthorne of the LA Times called it a “retrograde cocoon,” marking it down as a car-centric, “doggedly old-fashioned proposal.” Paul Goldberger of The New Yorker didn’t pull his punches either. He mocked the building as a “gigantic donut” that was “scary” in its lack of functionality and human scale. Though he typically will not judge an unbuilt design based on renderings, in this case Goldberger felt he must:
It’s said that Steve Jobs considers this building to be a key part of his legacy, which would be unfortunate, because it would mean that his last contribution to his company might well be his least meaningful.
Despite these cries from the box seats, a revised design that was released in early December didn’t change much from the original. Like the drawings first publicized this summer, the latest renderings depict a vast ring building set within a dense grove of trees. The new design has a darker roof and a more articulated elevation, clad with larger panels of gently curved glass. But the general form and program remain the same. Comprising a total area of 2.8 million square feet, its circular structure will house 13, 000 employees and include a thousand-person auditorium for corporate events. The utter naïveté of the form from an architectural standpoint may explain why the critics are so disturbed. How could such a big-name architect like Norman Foster, known for his pitch-perfect modernism and finesse, have generated such an inefficient plan? Could Jobs possibly be behind it? Jobs, for his part, only went so far as to call his campus a “space ship” at the local town hall meeting in June. With little explanation to go on, neither Hawthorne nor Goldberger connected the design to its most obvious reference: Zen Buddhism, one of Steve Jobs' life-long pursuits since his early days at Reed College. It’s conceivable that the campus plan was handed to Foster by the Apple CEO himself in the form of a simple circle of ink on rice paper. The ensō, or “circle,” is perhaps the most enduring motif in the Zen tradition, one that first appears in Japanese monasteries in the mid-1600s. The Zen circle is not a linguistic character, but rather a symbol that conveys a host of things—the universe, the cyclical nature of existence, enlightenment, strength, and poised contemplation. It suggests the Heart Sutra, which explains that “form is void and void is form,” as well as the path to Bodhisattva-hood. More importantly, the very making of the circle acts like a Rorschach test. As an expression of a moment then the body and spirit most freely create, and in the full sweep of a single brush stroke, the character of the devotee is fully exposed. In each ensō is the trace of spiritual realization. For those who know the life of Steve Jobs, this has special meaning. While still in college, he devoured books on Zen and was transfixed by one class in particular: calligraphy. As he discussed years later, “It was beautiful, historical, and artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.” And it was in 1975, after a less successful stint in India, that Steve Jobs –always torn between tech and the spiritual path--deliberated moving to Japan to enter a monastery. But the Zen master Kobin Chino Otogawa (who would later preside at Jobs 1991 wedding) persuaded him not to don the monk’s habit and instead make technology his vocation. Jobs started Apple in April 1, 1976. This personal history and the particular dimensions of the campus circle leave little doubt as to the connection. For a man dying of pancreatic cancer, Jobs was greatly involved in the campus design. He personally presented the project to the Cupertino town council, his last major endeavor as CEO. It is in their painted ensō and attendant poetry that monks over the centuries have each conveyed their own final testimony on enlightenment. This campus is Jobs’, and there are many personal touches. It is graced with thousands of fruit trees –cherry, apple, apricot, and plum trees that have been placed to offer a sense of perpetual bloom through the seasons. As Forbes magazine breathlessly described it:
In late February, around the time of Jobs’ birthday, the show will begin. Pink and white plum blossoms will appear on stands of trees at the center of Apple’s new campus, hinting at more to come. A few weeks later cherry trees scattered strategically along walkways and at the edges of open glades will start to blossom.
Fruit trees held a great deal of meaning for Steve Jobs, tying back both to his formative teenage job as an arborist on the Friedland farm and his early diet as an Ehret fruitarian at Reed College. The renderings don’t do justice to this aspect of the landscape design, nor do they offer any glimpse of the interior courtyard. Inside the vast courtyard, employees will experience not just gardens, but also a fountain, an open-air amphitheater, and a dining terrace set beside among apple orchards, a grove of apricot trees, stands of plum and cherry. Void or no void, it’s pretty glorious being on the inside of the Zen Circle of Steve. This bountiful but hidden world reminds me of two Zen paintings in particular, both of which are unique in the history of the art form, in that they have writing inside the usually empty circle. The first was done by Namtembo, a Zen roshi (“master”) who lived from 1839 to 1925. Writing inside the circle he declares:
Within the spinning circle of life we are born. The human heart too should always be kept round and complete.
The second is by Isan Shinko, an 18th century master, which has the symbol for heart inside the ensō and reads:
Keep yourself firmly centered inside here and nothing will be able to shatter you.
The two messages suggest two rather different ways to cope with the outside world. One is expansive, the other more cautious. Like most people, Steve Jobs had those characteristics, and his company has those traits as well. Apple products seem to strive for “Beauty,” in all its old-fashioned, capital-B form. In using them, you experience a visual elegance and richness of experience unmatched by most other consumer items. You feel their innovation and joy, and they fill you with a round and complete heart. As Jobs himself said nearly twenty years ago in a Money magazine article:
Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.
But as a corporate entity, Apple is also known as secretive and distancing. It has a closed garden philosophy. Like its founder, it often works a “doesn’t play well with others” vibe that could feel downright obsessive and reproving. Inside its shatter-proof ring of enlightenment, it’s got no time for us sorry-sack laymen. As Jobs once said, “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” Yes, excellence requires focus, and as Jobs was fond of saying:
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.
Of course, unlike the delicate washes of ink and water that comprise a Zen ensō, the new Apple campus is an actual building. It is a Zen circle, but it is also a cenotaph. Like Étienne-Louis Boullée’s famous unbuilt cenotaph to Newton, this building will honor a man who is buried elsewhere. Both are symbolic of the universe. Both are strange monuments to bold innovation. When designed, Newton’s cenotaph was, as Jobs described his new HQ, a space ship, otherworldly by every 18th century definition of the term. There are even similarities in the plan, though the Boullée design has rings of trees around an enclosed sphere, while Foster’s campus has a ring building enclosing a vast grove. Newton’s cenotaph has lines of trees that would skirt processional roads. Apple’s plan bulges with thick groves and a light improvisation of threaded paths. Both designs honor men who were social misfits in their youths but who strove for such excellence as adults that they were lauded on a near-global scale well before their deaths. Of course, there’s nothing more “un-Zen” than a cenotaph, the most brazen act of defiance against life’s impermanence. But that is part of the contradiction of Jobs, or indeed any business person with spiritual leanings. His friend Dan Kottke playful poked fun at this schism in a letter sent to Jobs as early as 1977 and published in Businessweek:
After performing an extensive prana to the lotus feet of suchness, gaze lovingly upon picture with cosmic thoughts of cosmic relevance and profundity until phone rings. Answer phone, haggle furiously, and refuse to sell for less than $2.3 million.
In the end, Jobs seems to pull it off. The words of his commencement address to the Stanford class of 2005 would take on greater resonance years later when it is clear he had, at the time, actually been fighting pancreatic cancer for nearly two years:
Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
You can’t get more Zen than that. Sean Daly is the Managing Director at Windtunnel Visualization, a brand agency and 3D design development firm in New York.
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The World’s Best Tall Building Doesn’t Have to be the Tallest

The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) sought out a deep understanding of sustainability and contextualization in selecting the Best Tall Building of 2011. This year's worldwide winner, while hardly as tall as last year's winning Burj Khalifa, went to the KfW Westarkade tower in Frankfurt Germany. The 184-foot-tall tower is projected to use half as much energy as a typical European office building and only a third the energy of a standard U.S. building. The 10th-annual awards ceremony took place November 3 at a distinctly horizontal building in Chicago, Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall. Designed by Sauerbruch Hutton, the KfW Westarkade stood above its contenders by its contextual approach to knitting together Frankfurt's urban fabric. With a colorful sawtooth glass skin, the tower curves around an irregular site. “Whereas many buildings use color as a way to mask an otherwise unremarkable building, here it contributes an additional rich layer to what is already a remarkable building,” said Peter Murray, one member of the jury. The tower was also awarded the Best Tall Building in Europe. Frank Gehry's curvilinear Eight Spruce Street in New York—the tallest residential building in North America—was named the Best Tall Building in the Americas for its iconic undulating skin that offers each unit a bay window overlooking Lower Manhattan. The jury appreciated the building's unique form as well as the investment it represents in a previously overlooked part of Manhattan. “As we design for a sustainable future, we desperately need a new definition of beauty that goes beyond skin deep,” said awards chair Rick Cook of Cook+Fox Architects in a statement. “Already being touted as one of the most energy-efficient office buildings in the world, KfW Westarkade stands out as a shining example of a truly environmentally-responsible project. The building has been carefully integrated into its context, forming relationships with its neighboring buildings, streets and parkland, while simultaneously standing out through the playful use of color. Whereas many buildings use color as a way to mask an otherwise unremarkable building, here it contributes an additional rich layer to what is already a remarkable building. Germany already has a strong reputation for achieving natural ventilation in tall office buildings, and Westarkade can now be added most positively to that list.” The Best Tall Building in Asia & Australia was awarded to the China's Guangzhou International Finance Center, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects. At 1,444 feet tall, the tower is easily the tallest of this year's winners and incorporates a tapering design and the world's largest diagrid system to help reduce the bulk of the tower and provide for an aerodynamic form. At night, the diagonal bracing is expressed with lights. Dubai's 1,070-foot Index tower by Foster+Partners was named Best Tall Building in the Middle East & Africa. The Index's use of shaded pools at its base to create micro-climates at the buildings entrances stood out. “The Index presents a new environmental icon for the Middle East, showcasing important passive strategies of orientation, core placement and shading,” said juror Werner Sobek. In addition to the four top tall buildings, Adrian Smith, principal at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, and Dr. Akira Wada, an expert in seismic design, were both awarded lifetime achievement awards for their contributions to tall architecture.
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Pictorial> Virgin goes Galactic

A quick flashback: Back in 2005, Virgin Group's latest venture, Virgin Galactic, and the State of New Mexico had announced that they had reached an "historic agreement"—that they would build a state-funded $200 million spaceport in New Mexico. Virgin planned to provide sub-orbital space flights to the paying public, along with sub-orbital space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites (and much later, even orbital human space-flights). The facility was to be designed by Foster + Partners, who won Virgin Galactic's international architectural competition. Now, the Virgin Galactic Spaceport America—the world's first commercial spaceport—has officially launched. Aimed to "articulate the thrill of space travel for the first space tourists while making a minimal impact on the environment," the spaceport is designed to resemble, when viewed from space, Virgin Galactic's brand logo of the eye, with an elongated pupil--the elevated apron completes the iris. When viewed from the ground, the terminal strives to appear more of "a subtle rise in the landscape" by incorporating an organic shape and color of the facade. The site area is 300,000 square feet, and includes three different facilities zones: the western zone houses support and administrative facilities for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority; the central zone serves as operational heart containing the hangar and hangar support for space craft; the eastern zone includes the principal operational training area, astronaut lounge, mission control, spacesuit dressing rooms, and "revival lounge" (which we hope is not as ominous in reality as it sounds). One of the challenges of the design was to achieve a sensitive balance between public versus private space. While the astronauts' areas and visitor spaces are fully integrated with the rest of the building, more sensitive zones such as the control room are visible but less accessible. The Spaceport, which is seeking LEED Gold status, is also sustainability-conscious--its low-lying form is embedded in the landscape for earth-sheltering, which exploits the thermal mass and buffers the building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate. Another green element is the 100m-long Earth Tubes, which are buried in the earth berm for fresh air intake, which cools and ventilates the interior. Also, the facility's facade orientation maximizes the daylight use via skylights (with high performance low-emittance glazing and natural shading system), and uses photovoltaics for electricity; it also sports underfloor radiant cooling and heating, with coils cast in the concrete slab, and chilled beams. Lastly, it conserves water with graywater recycling. More than 450 amateur astronauts from 46 different countries have already plunked down their deposits for the whopping $200,000 space flight, which is expected to take off soon after Christmas 2012.
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Archtober Building of the Day #6: Hearst Tower

Hearst Tower 959 8th Avenue New York, NY As written in the AIANY Design Awards issue of Oculus, Summer 2007:
With its efficient use of resources, abundant natural daylight and fresh air, and modern technologies, this 856,000-square-foot building designed by Foster + Partners and completed in 2006 is the first in New York City to receive a LEED Gold rating for its core, shell, and interiors. Most notably, it was constructed using more than 80% recycled steel. The diagrid framing uses 20% less steel than conventionally framed towers, and it was designed to consume 25% less energy than most Manhattan towers.
Continued from Oculus, Summer 2007:
The original, landmarked cast-stone façade by Joseph Urban and the new tower are linked on the outside by a transparent skirt of glazing that floods the interior spaces below with natural light and gives the impression that the tower is floating above the base. The building’s main spatial element is its atrium lobby – a vast internal piazza. It occupies the entire shell of the original building and features a 340-seat company cafeteria, the 168-seat Joseph Urban Theater, and exhibition spaces. A series of diagonal escalators take riders from the street-level lobby to the atrium level. They are between two halves of Ice Fall, a cascading water-and-glass sculpture designed by James Carpenter, which cools and humidifies the air.
Writers, like architects, are constantly scrambling for work, so in uncertain times, the construction of two monumental buildings for the print media (also the New York Times Building) gave hope to writers that their craft could sustain big buildings. Each “Building of the Day” has received a Design Award from the AIA New York Chapter. For the rest of the month—Archtober—we will write here a personal account about the architectural ideas, the urban contexts, programs, clients, technical innovations, and architects that make these buildings noteworthy. Daily posts will track highlights of New York’s new architecture. Read more at www.archtober.org/blog.
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Slideshow> Foster & Apple Render the Cupertino Ring

The official Foster + Partners design has (finally) been released for the new Apple campus in Cupertino. At a recent Cupertino City Council meeting Steve Jobs said he was excited to centralize his campus with a building for 12,000 employees on a site currently dominated by parking lots. In the time since the Cupertino meeting, the not-so-secret news that Foster & Partners designed the giant ring has also been confirmed. The low-lying complex, described as being built at a "human scale" and largely off the grid, is expected to open in 2015. In reference to the overall design and the building's glass curvature Jobs noted, "It’s a little like a spaceship landed."
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American Museums Shortlisted for the RIBA Lubetkin Prize

Last week, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced that two U.S. projects have been shortlisted for the RIBA Lubetikin Prize. The distinction honors building projects outside the European Union that set a standard for international excellence. The American projects chosen as finalists are The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston by Foster + Partners and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia by Rick Mather Architects. "This year’s shortlist is unusual in that they are all big budget projects—each with a contract value over $100 million," RIBA president Ruth Reed said in a statement. "The list mixes some of world architecture’s most famous names, with a younger practice so it will be interesting to see who the judges choose as a winner." The prize will be announced on October 1 followed by a feature on the winners on BBC 2's The Culture Show. Other finalist projects from around the world: Zaha Hadid's Guangzhou Opera House (Guangzhou, China), Foster's Masdar Institute (Masdar City, Abu Dhabi) and the Met by WOHA (Bangkok, Thailand).
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Video> Model Performance

Microsol Resources' Tuesday night presentation of Z Printers at Cooper Union was notable for scale of output, both small and large (very large). The 3-D printers produce a powder-based model where all unused excess material gets recycled within the machine. The copier makes tiny models with extraordinary precision. The prices run from $15,000 to $65,000. But a panel of four presenters said the printer's primary advantage is speed, allowing for new models to be created within 24 hours. Two firms made notable presentations.  Xavier De Kestelier, an associate partner at Foster + Partners, veered from the script a bit when he showed a video of a cement printer being developed at Loughborough University in the UK. That hanger sized 3-D printer makes modular units that can be adapted as building components. Then, Wesley Wright, a designer with Pelli Clarke Pelli, brought the conversation back to the Z Printer, which he said has become an integral part of the firm's design process. The firm has four machines operating round the clock. Sketching right onto the models during the review process is not uncommon. In a video, no less than the maestro himself, César Pelli,  intones on the importance of model making in general and on 3-D printers in particular. Wright has graciously, and exclusively, shared his video with AN. We nabbed the Foster/Loughborough video from YouTube. (Scroll down for the videos!)   Pelli on Models from Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo.