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.
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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!
Well, it happened. After years of strife over the project, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved the $2 billion, 1.5 million square foot redevelopment of the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. Back in 2009 the developer, Next Century Associates, threatened to tear down Minoru Yamasaki's curving midcentury Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel to make way for the project. But a parade of preservationists, including the LA Conservancy and Diane Keaton, stood in their way. The result: a compromise in which the hotel would be preserved by Marmol Radziner and surrounded by two three-sided, 46-story residential towers by Pei Cobb Freed as well as a 100,000-square-foot retail plaza and over two acres of public open space by Rios Clementi Hale. The executive architect is Gensler. City Council certified the scheme's Environmental Impact Report and approved a 15-year development agreement. Let the construction begin on another major Los Angeles development. Momentum is building.
Friday marked Designight 2012—AIA Chicago’s annual awards gala—which brought nearly 1,000 members of the area’s design community together at Navy Pier to recognize 39 projects in four awards categories: Distinguished Building, Interior Architecture, Divine Detail, and Sustainability Leadership. John Ronan’s Poetry Foundation; Perkins+Will’s Universidade Agostinho Neto in Luanda, Angola; Sheehan Partners’ Facebook Data Center in Prineville, Ore.; and David Woodhouse Architects’ Richard J. Daley Library IDEA Commons in Chicago (featured in the October Midwest issue of AN Midwest) were among the repeat winners of the night. Helmut Jahn accepted a lifetime achievement award, calling on the designers present to imagine a better future and then “make that future happen.” On behalf of his firm, Jahn also formally adopted the changes reported earlier—a new name, JAHN, and the ascension of Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido to share design leadership with Jahn. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow. The full list of winners and all 262 projects entered into the competition can be found on AIA Chicago's website.
The University of California Davis is becoming a cultural force. The school already has three art museums (and arts alums include artist Bruce Nauman and sculptor Deborah Butterfield), and is getting ready to add another, just releasing the shortlist for its new Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. The list is impressive, including the following design/build teams: wHYArchitecture and Gensler with BNBT Builders; HGA and DPR; Allied Works with Hathaway Dinwiddie; Westlake, Kitchell, WORK; Gould Evans, Henning Larsen, Oliver; Olson Kundig, Olveraa; and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, SO-IL, Whiting Turner. The list was culled from an initial list of 19. The 40,000 square foot museum, located on a 1.6 acre site that is part of a long-range master plan for the university’s new south entrance, is slated for completion in 2015,
Almost two years after the idea was first floated, AEG and Gensler's 72,000 seat, $1.2 billion stadium proposal was approved by LA City Council on Friday. The vote in favor of the project's environmental impact report (EIR) clears the way for the developer to seek an NFL team and for Gensler's steel-winged Farmers Field to move ahead. The stadium had experienced some controversy lately as news spread that AEG was putting itself up for sale. But that didn't deter the council, which voted 12-0 to move ahead with the plan. The stadium, and an adjacent convention center that was recently panned by an architectural commission, is being paid for privately, although funds are coming from $275 million in tax-exempt bonds. Another proposal by developer Ed Roski and architect Dan Meis, located in the City of Industry, is also trying to lure a team. Let the games begin.
We’re big fans of Gensler’s new downtown LA offices, which open up to a central atrium, keeping employees visually and physically connected. But the firm’s growth has forced it to partially abandon that model, moving extra employees to the decidedly-less-airy upper floors of their building, City National Plaza. Even in the most democratic offices, you can’t escape hierarchy!
On a recent sunny day in Silver Lake the Materials & Applications gallery got folks together to eat cake. In honor of the group’s 10th anniversary M&A hosted an architectural bake-off called “Elevate Your Cake,” with groovy deliciousness by an impressive group of designers. They included Predock Frane; Chu + Gooding; Escher GuneWardena Architecture; Gensler; Deegan Day; Deutsch; Patterns; Noah Riley Design; Warren Techentin; Barbara Bestor; MASS; Osborn; Modal Design; Taalman Koch; and Andy Goldman. That’s right, this was no amateur night. These were serious architectural cakes. Chu + Gooding’s cake, “Inopportune Totem,” looked like a porcupine had mated with a death-by-chocolate. Warren Techentin’s entry, “cubisphere,” was made up of Japanese Mochi and chocolate cake balls. It looked like a cube made of colorful (but edible) golf and ping pong balls stacked on each other. After several of the cakes were raffled off everybody got down to business: eating the rest.