Two of the most talked about new technologies in our world today—3D printing and unmanned drones—are beginning to merge. A good example: Mobile 3D Printing, a research project in Gensler's Los Angeles office attempting to create an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) fully capable of digital fabrication—freeing the technology from the constraints of boxes, robotic arms, and X-Y-Z axes. Young Gensler architects Tam Tran and Jared Shier are spearheading the effort. Their vehicle's name—MUPPette—stands for Mobile Unmanned Printing Platform. It consists of a carbon composite hexacopter,consisting of six blades, a gimbal beneath to stabilize the printer, and the battery-powered printer itself below, enabled with PLA plastic filament, the same material used in Makerbots and other fabrication machines. When the copter, controlled via laptop, takes off, its legs retract, allowing for more maneuverability. It can shoot out a relatively limited amount of PLA and can fly for about ten minutes at a time. The project concluded its first year this spring, and the group recently received a second grant to hone the concept for another year. Improvements that the team wants to work out include adding sonar sensors to make real time flight and stabilization adjustments, adding localized GPS for greater precision, addressing the impact of blades' wind currents on the PLA projection, and teaming the vehicle with others for more efficient and complex fabrication. "It's been exciting, exhilarating, and agonizing at the same time," said Shier. "Unless you try to solve the problems you're not advancing the technology." In the future—perhaps in a third year for the project—the group hopes to advance the technology to take on construction, which could be especially useful for producing humanitarian structures or for producing buildings in areas cut off from conventional modes of transit. Mobile 3D Printing is one of over 50 research projects funded firm-wide by Gensler. "This is a frontier that we clearly hadn't entered into before," said Tran. "We want to see what can be done."
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“It’s a fun time in Vegas right now, with the economy up,” said Beth Campbell, principal and managing director of Gensler’s Las Vegas office. Downtown is being reborn, thanks in no small part to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s multi-million dollar investment. The Strip, too, is booming—see the High Roller observation wheel, which opened on March 31. At the same time, the spendthrift breeziness of the pre-recession years is gone. “Everyone is coming back to life, but with a refined focus and purpose,” said Campbell. “I would say the clients and developers are cautiously aggressive...they still want to grow, still want to reach for the sky...But they’re really focused on how they’re applying [their money] to make these projects happen.” Campbell described the change as a “big shift to experiential design.” In most cases, property owners elect to pour most of their money into key client areas, keeping behind-the-scenes spaces simple. “It’s the peanut butter concept,” said Campbell. “You can spread it thin across the whole piece [of bread] or just put it all in one corner.” As an example, Campbell cited Gensler’s renovation of an existing office campus for budget airline Allegiant Air’s new headquarters. Construction on the five-building, 120,000 square-foot complex began last month. “It’s been a very measured approach to this new facility for them, keeping in line with their corporate values and their low-cost approach,” said Campbell. “But they put their people first, and they’re doing the same thing in their office space.” To accommodate multiple work modes, Gensler created a variety of spaces, including open office space, individual work stations, and collaboration zones. Flexibility was the keynote. “Although we’re doing drywall partitions, we’re doing it in such a manner that if they want to move these boxes they can,” said Campbell. Gensler also recently renovated The AXIS Theater inside Planet Hollywood, home to Britney Spears’s “A Piece of Me” show. The clients “had one mission in mind and that was to create a great experience for the people who are coming,” said Campbell. As with Allegiant Air, the theater’s owners “were very measured, they were very methodical about how they wanted to apply their money.” The theater’s lobby is outfitted in shades of grey and black, the sharp lines of the asymmetrical portal balanced by a massive LED sculpture spiraling from the ceiling. In keeping with the nightclub theme, the auditorium’s walls are also black, as is its domed ceiling. Rows of purple seats hug a half-ring of VIP tables and, against the stage, two standing areas. Campbell sees last month’s RFP for a Downtown Master Plan as further evidence of the new zeitgeist, which couples renewed optimism with careful planning. “It’s a mechanism for the city to evaluate what’s in place, what do we really have,” she said. “It’s going to take a look at, are they spending their money in the right places?” Timed to coincide with the completion of a new form-based code for downtown, the master plan will define an overall strategy for the city’s revitalization. “It’s really interesting to watch,” said Campbell. “It’s measured. It’s not just a shotgun approach.”
It’s a battle of the starchitects in Mexico City—and the Brits are leading the pack. Out of the seven finalists short-listed to design an expansion for the capital city's airport, Benito Juarez International, four hail from the UK: Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Pascall+Watson. They are joined in the final round by Teodoro González de León with Taller de Arquitectura X, SOM, and Gensler. All of these teams are being led by Mexican practices, and construction could begin later this year. The multi-billion dollar expansion should accommodate 40 million annual passengers at over 70 new gates. The airport's current cheese-grater-like facade in Terminal 2 was completed by Serrano Arquitectos in 2008. The envelope's many circular windows are used to maximize natural daylight within the terminal year round. [Via Architects' Journal]
From its streets to its rivers to its skyline, Pittsburgh is a city in transformation. The Steel City is diversifying its economy, improving its streetscape and becoming a new hub for the creative class. Business Insider has even declared Pittsburgh to be “The Next Hipster Haven." But the transformation has meant more than coffee shops, bike-share, and startups—even though that’s certainly playing a part. As the city changes, though, it’s too easy to ask if Pittsburgh is the “Next [Enter City Here].” Because the “Next Pittsburgh” will not be the “Next Austin,” or even the “Next Portland.” It's shaping up to be something entirely it’s own. Simply put, "The Next Pittsburgh" will be just that. 1. The Tower at PNC Plaza Pittsburgh’s skyline will change dramatically next year as the new 32-story Tower at PNC Plaza marks its place. The financial services company is calling their new Gensler-designed headquarters “the world’s greenest skyrise.” While that’s a bold claim, the glass tower will have a lot more than the typical green fixings. It is expected to surpass LEED Platinum status with its massive solar collector on the roof and a double-skin facade that opens and closes according to the temperature. Also, there will be green roofs, because, obviously. 2. Market Square Installation Following a major renovation in 2010, the city’s Market Square recently unveiled a temporary, public art installation called Congregation. The work is described as “an interactive kinetic video and sound installation designed and choreographed for pedestrian performers.” Essentially, the installation turned the public space into a dynamic public stage. And best of all, it was completely free and open to all ages. While Congregation recently closed, it is part of a new three-year initiative to bring art to the city during those cold, winter months. 3. Produce Terminal Significant changes could be in store for Pittsburgh’s old produce terminal in the city’s vibrant Strip District. What those changes will look like, though, isn’t clear just yet. A local developer had planned to renovate two-thirds of the 1,500-foot-long structure and demolish the rest to make way for residential and office space, but the city has put that plan on hold. Mayor Bill Peduto is intent on preserving and reusing the entire building with possible uses including shopping, retail, and arts space. 4. The Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard The Produce Terminal is adjacent to the much larger Riverfront Landing residential and office project, which is part of the much, much larger Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard plan. The latter aims to transform six miles of industrial land into new riverfront parks and mixed-use development. The ambitious proposal was conceived five years ago by the city, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Riverlife—a public-private partnership that advocates for riverfront parks. While it is still in the planning process, it was envisioned by Sasaki Associates for a study last year. Their proposed master plan includes new development, green space, bike paths, and converting an old railway into a commuter train. 5. Point State Park After a multi-year, multi-million dollar overhaul, Point State Park is once again entirely worthy of its iconic location. Situated right where the Monongahela River meets the Allegheny to form the Ohio River, the refurbished 36-acre park boasts new lawns, landscaping, seating, a café, and improved access to the water. Capping off the renovation, which was led by Marion Pressley Associates, is the park’s revamped fountain—which has been described as its “crown jewel.” The fountain now has a “disappearing edge waterfall feature, new lighting including colors for special events, all new surfaces, pumping equipment, and controls.” Of course, Point State Park is an impressive public space in its own right, but it’s only a portion of the city’s 13-miles of riverfront parks and trails. 6. Eastside III The city recently broke ground on Eastside III, a transit-oriented, mixed-use development in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood. The phased project will consist of three buildings, the first of which is expected to open next spring. The mixed-use project—designed by Design Collective—is being built alongside a revamped multi-modal transit hub by CDM Smith. The hub will be able to accommodate 1,000 daily bus arrivals and departures, and is expected to increase connections between neighborhoods. The new transit plaza includes "a repurposed bus ramp and a new cap over the railroad and busway." 7. Bike Share Later this year, Pittsburgh will join the ranks of cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. when it launches its own bike-share program. While details on the program are limited, the program is slated to roll-out this summer with about 500 bikes at 50 stations. The goal is to ultimately expand the program to 1,000 to 1,500 bikes at 100 to 150 stations. The big question, of course, is what will the system be called. The name is still under wraps, but it will have a corporate sponsor. So, place your bets now people. 8. TalkPGH While Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers are the biggest names in late-night these days, the most unique talk-show in the country was recently driving through the streets of Pittsburgh. Last Spring, Talk PGH—a talk-show that took place inside of a truck, yes inside of a truck—appeared in all of Pittsburgh’s 90 neighborhoods. As part of PLANPGH, the city’s 25-year agenda for growth, the show was a way for the city to interview residents and hear their hopes for Pittsburgh's urban design. 9. Carnegie Mellon's Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall Carnegie Mellon’s already impressive campus will become even more so when the Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall—or "Scott Hall" as it's known locally—opens next year. The 100,000-square-foot building, designed by Office 52 and Stantec, will contain laboratories, libraries, office space, and a café. It will also house a cleanroom facility, “which will become the new home for Nano Fabrication, the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.” 10. The Car-Free Road Pittsburgh just one-upped every city priding themselves on their modest, new bike infrastructure. When faced with a dangerous road that put cyclists at risk, the city didn’t just add new protected bike lanes, they shut down part of a roadway from cars entirely. Now, the section of Pocusset Street, which winds through a city park is reserved exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. According to Bike Pittsburgh, the Department of Public Works “repainted it with bi-directional bike-lanes, designated pedestrian walkways, included LED street lighting, and installed reflective bollards to block traffic from entering at either end.” 11. Ace Hotel And rounding out the list is, of course, a new Ace Hotel. While the Steel City will likely not become “The Next Portland”—an idea raised by both Pacific Standard and The Washington Post—the city will certainly move in Stumptown's direction when the exhaustingly trendy hotel opens in Pittsburgh next year. The 36-room Ace will be housed in a former YMCA building in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood. There are currently no renderings of the project, but one can expect plenty of Edison bulbs, murals, and some inexplicable, giant, vintage letters.
Speaking of zombies, two of Downtown LA’s most long-stalled projects appear to be rising from the dead. The mixed-use project revolving around Julia Morgan’s beautiful Herald Examiner Building on Broadway is apparently finally getting underway, now developed by Forest City, and no longer designed by Morphosis. The designer has yet to be revealed. Also Metropolis, a multi-building megaproject designed at one point by Michael Graves back in the 1990s, is apparently being brought back by Gensler. Of course downtown giveth and downtown taketh away. We hear that Johnson Fain, who were previously designing the Bloc development, a makeover of the former Macy’s Plaza, is no longer on the project. Studio One Eleven are now, according to a project spokesperson, “moving forward with implementation.” Johnson Fain had been “engaged to assist with the development of the concept and to oversee the schematic design phase of the Bloc.” Too bad they couldn’t finish the job.
Maybe it's because AN moved our West Coast offices here? Or maybe (more likely) there's finally a critical mass of talent, clients, and opportunity? Either way, it seems like Downtown Los Angeles is becoming the place for architecture and engineering firms these days. Recent moves there include Gensler, SOM, SAA, LeanArch, SDA, Freeland Buck, Nous, MADA, and Ahbe Landscape Architects, to name a few. Now these firms are being joined by two engineering giants: Arup and Buro Happold. Arup just opened a 2,500 square foot facility at 811 Wilshire, designed by Zago Architecture. The 25-person space, which will supplement its Culver City offices, will contain flexible work stations that allow workers choose new seating each day, and large open areas for meetings and workshops. Desks, also by Zago, alternate between sitting and standing heights, and look, as office leader John Phillips put it, "like a crashed airplane." The facility will allow employees to be closer to important clients like Metro, Gensler, and NBBJ, said Phillips. "We were reaching the limits of our space and spending most of our time on the freeway," said Phillips, summing up a couple more reasons for the move. Meanwhile Buro Happold moved its entire Los Angeles operations to 800 Wilshire Boulevard on December 30. Their open, 12,500-square-foot LEED Platinum offices includes 40 feet of floor-to-ceiling grow walls, 90 percent natural lighting, and energy-storing phase change materials. Designed in-house, the office will hold 80 Buro Happold employees, and improve connectivity to clients and to Los Angeles in general. All employees have been given year-long TAP metro cards to encourage public transit use. "As downtown has become the epicenter of our Southern California Business we wanted to locate our new space in a central location that encompasses our philosophy—transparent and creative, with a touch of magic," said managing principal David Herd. Did we mention they have a large balcony overlooking the city? Now these downtown moves are making even more sense.
The rumors are true: Google is building that barge docked at Treasure Island on the San Francisco Bay. Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle uncovered documents submitted to the city by By and Large, a company connected to Google, that revealed plans for a "studio and tech exhibit space." The 250-foot-long and 50-foot-tall structure is being built from welded recycled shipping containers, with the design led by two coastal firms, Gensler in San Francisco and LOT-EK in New York. The project will include over a dozen sails resembling fish fins, to help provide shade and shelter, and come foul weather, the ability to be lowered. The barge will make the rounds throughout San Francisco, stopping at several docks (each for a month), including Fort Mason, Piers 30-32, and Angel Island, among others. It will eventually make its way down to San Diego and other port cities along the west coast. The exhibit is expected to receive up to 1,000 visitors a day. Three additional barges in the works. Read more about Google's plans here.
Last week Los Angeles councilman, Jose Huizar, announced the formation of a 21-member task force to help re-imagine Pershing Square, the beleaguered central park in the middle of downtown. The group includes local residents, design and architecture experts, business people, and government officials. Huizar said he hoped they could bring "a wide-range of ideas and perspectives to the discussion." They'll also have to develop an agenda and a timeline, and figure out how to fund the project. One possible funding source could be seed money from downtown developments' community benefits funds, according to Huizar's planning director, Tanner Blackman. To help get the discussion going (and shed light on the square's possibilities) Gensler shared its ideas for the square, developed over the last year has as part of its year-long company-wide "Town Square" research and design project. The ambitious goal: to "reconsider the role of public open space in cities." Their studies weighed a dizzying amount of data informing a possible redesign. Who knew there could be so many uses and designs for a park? And who knew that the current iteration could be so out of sync with what's around it. (Well actually, we did know that...) "It's a starting point," said Gensler principal Li Wen. "We'd love to test this model with the park's stakeholders," added associate Brian Glodney. That could be a while off, and there's no telling who will be selected to lead the eventual redesign. But regardless of what direction the square takes one thing is for sure: Gensler has a head start on the competition.
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Gensler’s design at the University of Houston is realized in a cloud-inspired, sound-absorptive ceiling solution.Gensler and Ceilings Plus have brought a touch of the Big Apple to the University of Houston’s recently completed Quiet Hall in the Classroom and Business Building. Gensler drew its design inspiration for a ceiling in the new building from the New York Central Library’s Rose Reading Room. The firm hired the California-based Ceilings Plus to translate its interpretation of this classical interior, which includes perforations and geometric folds, into an affordable, buildable, and installable ceiling solution. Ceilings Plus used digital software to marry the design architect’s vision with a workable model that offered minimal joint tolerances and maintained compatibility with HVAC systems. “Since the architect was interested in doing something completely new, it was important to realize that process together,” said Michael Chusid, who works in marketing and business development for Ceilings Plus. Gensler produced three conceptual renderings in Revit, then turned them over to project engineer Robert Wochner, who developed sound-absorptive perforations and a suspension system that could support the various angles of the Quiet Hall’s multi-planar ceiling. Wochner used AutoCAD to reconcile Gensler’s rendering, which depicted a cloud of perforations across the ceiling for sound absorption. Acoustically there was an ineffective number of apertures, so Wochner filled in the original design with smaller, carefully angled perforations. By leaving an ample amount of space between the dropped ceiling and the planchement, the perforations are able to absorb vibrations in an efficient and lightweight system. Nearly 50 configurations were considered before arriving at a final design, which was modeled in SolidWorks. Ceilings Plus fabricated the panels using stock products and a CNC router. The architect’s chose the company’s PVC-free Saranté laminate in a henna-toned wood finish, which is affixed to an aluminum sheet. A punch press knocked out the perforations, revealing a blue felt backing. Despite the ceiling’s complex appearance, Ceilings Plus developed a suspension system based on a conventional T-bar system, making it easy to install. Since the ceiling is not flat, attachment points were individually set to hang each of the 280 panels from between six and eight torsion springs. “With this firm pressure downward, you can extract the panel and lower it out of place to gain access to the ceiling cavity to maintain the HVAC system, ductwork, and other mechanicals,” said Chusid. Custom-fabricated brackets help support the unique angles. Ceilings Plus deployed several expert installers to assist the installation process. “Any time there’s a slope on the ceiling and it interfaces with something round, like a column, it goes from a circle to an ellipse,” said Wochner. “Though we have precise information about the field location, it’s not uncommon to make adjustments on site.”
In recent weeks we've seen a number of important developments in Downtown Los Angeles, like the groundbreaking of the Arquitectonica-designed apartments on Grand Avenue, and the topping out of The Broad next door. The red-hot area continues to make headlines, from the advancement of its upcoming streetcar to the murkiness of its proposed football stadium. •The city's Downtown Streetcar, which last month received funding from a tax on downtown residents, has gotten more good news. According to Curbed LA, LA City Council on March 7 approved an operational plan committing up to $294 million of Measure R transportation tax money to cover the operation and maintenance of the system. The streetcar will travel in a loop along Broadway, Figueroa Street, and other main thoroughfares between the city's Civic Center to its Convention Center. •According to Yahoo Sports, anonymous sources in the NFL have said that AEG and Gensler's Downtown LA stadium (rendered at top) in South Park is looking less and less likely. "The numbers just don't work, no matter how you look at the deal," a "league source" told Yahoo. "It's either too hard for AEG to make money [and pay the debt on the stadium] or too hard for the team. I just can't see a way for it to work." Some have said that the NFL favors a new stadium in Chavez Ravine. Stay tuned. •The LA Times reports that Singapore developer Overseas Union Enterprise has agreed to buy the Pei Cobb Freed-designed, 72-story U.S. Bank Building, the tallest building in California. The developer will be buying the building from MPG Office Trust for $367.5 million. "Its cylindrical design is an inefficient layout for an office building," real estate analyst Jed Reagan of Green Street Advisors told the Times.
Silicon Valley definitely has the architecture bug. We've recently seen remarkable new designs put forth by Foster + Partners for Apple and NBBJ for Samsung. Now Gensler has released ambitious new designs for tech company Nvidia, located in Santa Clara. The 24-acre complex's two 500,000-square-foot buildings are each shaped like triangles, a configuration that Gensler principal Hao Ko explains facilitates collaboration by allowing connections to each side of the building to be the shortest. (The triangle, he adds, is also "the fundamental primitive that defines all shapes in the digital realm.") Undulating roofs will be made up of smaller triangle pieces, breaking down the overall mass and allowing for ample skylighting, in the in-between spaces. Construction is set to begin this summer, with completion in 2015. Apple's circle now has geometric competition. Who's next?
It looks like things at long-maligned LAX are looking up. First AN reported that AECOM is working on a big makeover of the airport’s roadway spaces and that Fentress Architects is completing a new Tom Bradley Satellite Terminal. Now we’ve gotten our hands on a secret shortlist for LAX Terminal 4 Connector, the next component of the airport’s international spaces. And the finalists are… Corgan (with Turner) and Gensler (with Hensel Phelps). Now if only they could get the subway to go there, LAX might actually become a world-class airport!