Brought to you with support fromOn June 25, Facades+ is returning to Boston for the fourth year in a row. The conference, organized by The Architect's Newspaper, is a full-day event split between a morning symposium and an afternoon of workshops led by top AEC practitioners. Leers Weinzapfel Associates (LWA), a Boston-based firm with projects nationwide, is co-chairing the conference. Panels for the conference will focus on the changes underway in Boston, ranging from new educational structures, the city's new tallest residential building, and historic preservation projects. Participants for the conference's symposium and workshops include Behnisch Architekten, Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Bruner / Cott, Arrowstreet, Consigli Construction, Walter P. Moore, Autodesk, Atelier Ten, Harvard GSD, the Wyss Institute, and Okalux. In this interview with The Architect's Newspaper, LWA's designer and business development representative Zhanina Boyadzhieva and associate Kevin Bell, the conference co-chairs, discuss their firm's growing body of work and the developmental trends within the city of Boston. The Architect's Newspaper: Boston is known as a relatively quiet city with a predominantly low-slung skyline. How is current development reshaping that identity and what does it mean for the future? Zhanina Boyadzhieva: Boston is indeed a “quiet” city, but it is also a hub of innovation and creative thinking. In the past few years, we have observed dynamic design work, largely by local firms, on several fronts: 1) creative re-envisioning of historical landmarks through readaptations and additions such as Smith Center at Harvard University and Congress Square in downtown Boston 2) careful insertions of new landmarks in the skyline such as One Dalton 3) fast development and growth of existing or new resilient neighborhoods such as Harvard’s Allston campus. Each design solution addresses unique urban conditions and entails holistic thinking about city planning, resilience, and sustainability, coupled with a sense of function, form, materiality, and human experience. Naturally, facades combine all of these considerations and become dominant players in the reshaping of cities. The diversity of approaches we observe—controlled material juxtapositions of old and new, sculptural form-making, and playful screening strategies—are testaments to ongoing design experimentations here. There is a search for new methods to address creative reuse, high performance, material fabrication, and user experience. AN: The city possesses one of America's largest concentrations of brutalist buildings, as well as large historic districts. How can Boston embrace its heritage while moving forward? Kevin Bell: The rich building history of Boston, including modern landmarks like City Hall, and its brutalist companions make for wonderful urban fabric for intervention and a great place for an architect to practice. This history should serve to elevate our expectations for new buildings and major renovations in the city. The recent warming to Boston’s brutalism, its strong geometry and bare materials, is welcome, encouraging designers to consider rather ignore these local icons. It presents the opportunity to consider adaptation and re-envisioning through sustainability’s lenses, the human experience, and materiality. If we can dramatically improve the energy efficiency and human use in these sensitive historic buildings, we can achieve the same in new construction and create a model for continued improvement. AN: What innovative enclosure practices is LWA currently executing? KB: As a firm, we have a legacy of designing efficiently in an urban context. Often, our site is an existing historic building or a tightly constrained sliver of land, or sometimes, there's no site at all. This fosters a sensibility within the studio toward compact volumes, materially efficient, with taut fitted skins, a practice that serves us well as we work to make evermore energy efficient and sustainable buildings. We're also redefining our performance expectations around our clients' commitments to energy efficiency, many of whom have established operational carbon neutrality as their aim by mid-century. The enclosures we design today will be part of that efficiency equation. They must be considered to be part of a carbon neutral organizational environment as a performance baseline above simple compliance with today's codes or target certifications. Envelope performance, especially the use of innovative glazing materials, is a logical extension of the way we think about reactive, efficient space and energy efficiency targets in building enclosure design. Our Dartmouth Dana Hall renovation and addition, under construction now, is an example of this process and practice. We worked closely with the college to define a program for building reuse around its energy use reduction targets that dramatically improved envelope efficiency. Through the design process, we worked with our design and construction partners to continually refine the design while holding to incremental improvement in energy efficiency at each step; our modeled efficiency improved even as we moved through cost reduction exercises. The result is a highly insulated building, triple glazed throughout, with a thermally improved, south-facing glass curtainwall system combining vacuum insulated high-performance glass modules with integrally solar shaded, triple glazed vision glass as part of a building with a predicted energy use index (pEUI) in the middle twenties before the introduction of site renewables. AN: Which materials do you believe are reshaping facade practices? ZB: Materials are the agents of larger design strategies shaping the practice such as resilience, sustainability, and human experience. The aim to rethink and cherish historical buildings, for example, leads to a careful layering of existing and new materials that contrast and simultaneously enhance each other. Heavy textured concrete at the Smith Center is supplemented by light and open transparent glass, green walls and warm wood. Traditional brick block at Congress Square is juxtaposed with a floating glass box on top of sculptural fiber-reinforced plastic panels. On the other hand, the vision to create new landmarks that celebrate and reshape the Boston skyline result in the careful sculpting of distinctive volumes as in One Dalton, a tall glass skyscraper with careful incisions of exterior carved spaces for human use. Finally, the goal to produce energy efficient but playful envelopes leads to a game of patterns composed of an inner insulated layer with an outer wrapper of perforated metal screens or angled aluminum fins. Each choice of material and its manipulation reflects a larger vision to create a unique experience in the city. Further information regarding Facades+ Boston can be found here.
Posts tagged with "Knippers Helbig":
As an engineer, Thorsten Helbig, co-founder of Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering, has a unique perspective on facade design. "We conceptualize a facade as an integral part of a whole, as part of a larger system," he explained. Helbig, who will deliver the morning keynote address at next month's Facades+ NYC conference, identified two focal points. The first is the relationship of the building envelope to structure. The second is performance: "What can the facade offer back to the building?" Helbig asked Helbig queries all of his facade design choices. "Can we use the facade to capture energy for the building? What are the operation modes—is there a potential the facade could be flexible or adaptive to actively support the building functions?" In both cases, Knippers Helbig is invested in moving beyond yesterday's solutions. "Our engineering approach is fundamentally driven by our interest in innovation," said Helbig. Two areas in which Knippers Helbig is leading the innovation charge are design technology and materials. The firm began developing tessellation tools for grid shells about two decades ago, well before similar software was commercially available. In the years since, the engineers have refined their in-house technology into a multi-criteria optimization tool, which proved critical to the Shenzhen airport project. "Our work on the Shenzhen airport profoundly shaped our approach to design technology—as it relates to our basic understanding of the design process (or you might say process design)—and as it relates to a potential paradigm shift in project organization as a whole: away from the traditional hierarchical-linear design process toward a design of the process in which all design parameters are simultaneously considered," explained Helbig. As for materials, the firm is known for its facility with both conventional and "new" systems. Knippers Helbig capitalized on the flexible strength of glass fibre reinforced polymers (GFRP) first for an operable facade in a typhoon zone for South Korea's Expo 2012 pavilion, then for a proposed shading concept for Renzo Piano's Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. "However," added Helbig, "even more traditional building materials such as timber can be re-interpreted through an application of the latest design and fabrication technologies." Two cases in point are a double curved multi-layer grid shell in Cologne and a parametrically developed timber grid shading screen for a Dubai high-rise. Knippers Helbig is also known for its sensitivity to environmental performance. Helbig points out that 75 percent of New York City's greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the building sector. "As long as we are not able to generate the required energy emission-free and based fully on renewable resources, the reduction of the operational energy will remain a key factor in designing sustainable buildings," he said. Embedded energy is also a concern, leading the engineers to explore materials that are based on renewable resources and/or compostable at end of life. Knippers Helbig recently collaborated on the EpiCenter Expansion for Artists for Humanity (with Behnisch Architekten and Transsolar), poised to become Boston's first LEED Platinum building and the first Energy Plus house in New England. "The facade system will be developed to have the capacity to supply energy back to the building, ultimately producing a building system that generates more energy than it consumes," Helbig explained. To hear more from Helbig and other movers and shakers in the world of facade design and construction, register today for Facades+ NYC. Visit the conference website for more information and a full schedule.
|Brought to you by:|
A 34,000-square-foot kinetic media facade represents the themes of Korea’s international exhibitionOpened last month in the coastal city of Yeosu, South Korea, the 2012 International Exhibition's theme, “The Living Ocean and Coast,” is a way for attendees to examine challenges and solutions to development on oceans and coastlines. As the architect of the expo’s thematic pavilion, Vienna-based Soma Architecture designed a kinetic media facade to act as a counterpart to the show’s location by the water and to its multimedia presentations. Working with Stuttgart- and New York-based structural engineering firm Knippers Helbig as facade consultant, the team developed a constructible solution for building one of the largest adaptive structures in the world. Soma drew its inspiration for the facade by studying the natural sway of various types of vegetation. Because of its high tensile strength and low bending stiffness, glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GRP) was an ideal choice for construction of 108 twisting fins that would give movement to the facade. Architects refer to the fins as lamellas, the name for the ribs on the underside of a mushroom cap. Fabrication of the lamellas was done locally using traditional GRP molding techniques. Their media components—LEDs—are embedded in a 4-inch grid, with additional LED strips lining the edge of each fin to emphasize its movement. The way the facade moves, however, is far from traditional. It explores new possibilities for active facade design with an analog approach to movement. The lamellas occupy more than 34,000 square feet, each one with a free span of 10 to 50 feet. The spears move when actuators apply compressive stress to the top and bottom of each one. The pressure creates a complex elastic deformation in each segment, causing the facade to open. The wall’s 216 actuators, each of which consists of a servomotor that drives a ball screw spindle, are activated by a coordinating control unit. Sensors continually check each lamella’s position, relaying information back to a server. Because upper and lower motors often have opposite power requirements (as with driving a car versus breaking it), the system can feed energy back into the local system to operate more efficiently. Typhoon-strength wind loads were one of the design’s greatest concerns, so the facade must be able to close completely if necessary. When the facade closes, the lamellas are stabilized as the actuators stretch the fins and allow each to press against its neighbor. The applied pre-tension can be adjusted according to wind load; the adaptability will increase the fins’ durability by allowing the minimum amount of stress to be placed on each segment. The facade's energy consumption is also reduced during the pre-tensioning process, allowing up to 13 fins to move at once. According to the project team, the facade’s final technical solution was inspired by a research project at ITKE University in Stuttgart that investigated how biological moving mechanisms can be applied to architecture. The Expo will run through August, but its pavilion may influence new biomimetic approaches to facade design well into the future.