A digitally-designed medical products showroom plays well with its City Beautiful neighbors.The Global Center for Health Innovation, designed by LMN Architects along with the attached Cleveland Convention Center, is more than a showroom for medical products and services. Located adjacent to the Burnham Malls, the open space at the heart of Daniel Burnham’s Group Plan of 1903, the building is part of Cleveland’s civic core. “One of the things about the Global Center is that it has a unique expression and in particular the facade treatment,” said design partner Mark Reddington. “But it’s also a really integrated piece of a bigger idea and a bigger composition.” A dynamic combination of textured concrete panels and irregular slashes of glazing, the Global Center’s facade, which won honorable mention in AN’s 2014 Best of Design Awards, deftly negotiates the gap between the building’s historic context and its function as a high-tech marketplace. The Global Center’s City Beautiful surrounds influenced its facade design in several ways. “Part of the trick for us in looking at the Global Center,” said project architect Stephen Van Dyck, “was to try and make a building that was contemporary and relevant, but also a building that referred and deferred to its context materially and compositionally.” As a reflection on the solidity of the older structures ringing the Malls, the architects minimized glazing in the east face’s concrete system. In addition, they chose the color and aggregates of the concrete to mimic the tone of limestone. The texturing on the concrete panels, too, was informed by the Global Center’s context. “Like the classical buildings, there’s a lot of detail that shows up in different lighting conditions,” said Reddington. At the same time, the Global Center is very much a product of the 21st century. “There was an explicit intention in creating a facade whose qualities would not have been achievable without digital technology,” said Van Dyck. “It doesn’t look like it was handcrafted. It was primarily an exercise in allowing the technical means of creation and design to live forever on the outside of this building.” In particular, he said, the architects were interested in how their chosen material—precast concrete—allowed them to move beyond a punched-window system to a more complicated relationship between solids and voids. The result eventually became a scientific metaphor, as the designers observed the resemblance of the pattern to the twisting helices of a DNA molecule. LMN developed the facade design on a remarkably short timeline: about four months from concept to shop drawings. “The schedule requirements of the whole thing were absurd,” said Van Dyck. To make modifying the design as easy as possible, the architects developed a utility called Cricket to link Grasshopper and Revit. The ability to update the BIM model in real time convinced the design-build team to take risks despite the compressed timeframe. “Once they realized there was a strong mastery of the data, an ability to listen and incorporate the needs of [multiple] parties, that was really the breakthrough,” explained Van Dyck. “They said, ‘Hey, we can build something that’s a little unconventional.’” Besides their Cricket plug-in, a 3D printer was LMN’s most valuable tool during the design process. To explore how the panels’ texturing would animate the facade under different lighting conditions, they created plaster models from 3D-printed casts. “We had to do that because the geometry was so complex that we didn’t have any computers at the time that were capable of [modeling it],” said Van Dyck. “For us, working between the physical, digital, hand-drawn renderings were all so critical in discovering what we ultimately ended up building.” Sidley Precast Group fabricated the concrete panels with a surface pattern of horizontal joints that vary in depth and height. To minimize cost, the fabricators made almost all of the molds from a single 8-by-10-foot master formliner, with horizontal ribs spaced every 6 inches acting as dams for the smaller molds. While LMN Architects originally wanted to limit the number of panel types to eight, the final count was around 50, including larger pieces made by connecting smaller panels vertically. The approximately 400 precast panels were moved by crane to a system of vertical steel tubes running from slab to slab, then welded into place. The Viracon glazing was welded to the same tubes, a couple of inches back from the face of the concrete. The large atrium window on the building’s east face was manufactured by NUPRESS Group. For the architects, the significance of the Global Center’s facade remains tied to its broader context. Its design, while driven by modern technology, achieves a surprising degree of harmony with its surroundings. “Our building is in a way very classical, though it wasn’t an explicit intention of ours,” said Van Dyck. “To create a language that was both universal and also something that was really new—from our perspective that was a big achievement of the project.”
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A system of 946 unique panels will produce optimal acoustics and aesthetics at the University of Iowa's new School of Music.For a 700-seat concert hall at the new School of Music at the University of Iowa, Seattle-based LMN Architects wanted to design a high-performing ceiling canopy that would unify the many features of traditional theatrical and acoustic systems. The result is a 150-foot-long by 70-foot-wide surface composed of 946 suspended, intricately laced panels that incorporate complex, interdependent, and at times conflicting systems—including lighting, theatrics, speakers, sprinklers, and acoustical functionality—in a unified architectural gesture. "The system is sculptural for sure, but it had to conceal structural truss work, which was a major cost savings as opposed to building an acoustic container," said Stephen Van Dyck, a principal at LMN Architects. The design team worked with both parametric digital and physical models to coordinate the structural system with the acoustic, theatrical, audio/visual, lighting, fire, and material elements of the canopy. "From Day One, it was a digital model," he said. "We needed a smaller physical model to get everyone's head around making this happen physically. A three-foot room model has a big impact on ability to conceive." LMN fabricated the scale model, as well as a few full-sized components, on the firm’s 3-axis CNC mill. The canopy is divided into hundreds of panels, each of which is unique to accommodate the needs of the many systems. Along the back of the canopy's perimeter, panels feature large openings so that the sound profile of each concealed speaker passes through unimpeded. Other panels along the perimeter are designed with varying degrees of acoustic transparency relative to the size of openings on surrounding panels. Medium openings toward the back of the canopy house stage lighting, while smaller openings accommodate house lights. Panels with the smallest openings, or those less than 70 percent open, conceal sprinklers, while the solid panels that droop down over the stage are angled to effectively reflect sound into the house. "From the audience, the intent is for sound to reach you quickly rather than for other sounds to arrive slower," Van Dyck explained, "so the sculptural gesture brings sounds right back to the audience." The many consultants who contributed to the design worked in different digital formats. The acousticians used SketchUp; the lighting designers worked in Revit; and theater and audio/visual specifications were saved as DWG files. Each program was compatible with Rhino and, with a Grasshopper plugin, LMN was able to incorporate information from all other platforms. "The parametric model was very flexible and let us accommodate changes all along as developments came from other contributors," Van Dyck said of the design process, which he described as more cyclical than linear. The parametric capabilities of the digital tools that the team used helped facilitate a smooth and efficient documentation process during the mock ups, making it easy to go back through any kinks that were uncovered. LMN built the mockup from aluminum composite paneling, a relatively inexpensive metal system composed of two layers of aluminum with a composite core. The material is highly flexible and it can be bent by hand after scoring on the CNC mill. This process could potentially eliminate on-site fabrication requirements. Fabrication data generated by this production model will be applied to all 946 of the unique panels in the final project. Documents will go to bid this summer, and the building is expected to open in 2016.
While the Bullitt Center was the first built project to follow the rigorous sustainable guidelines of Seattle's "Eco-District," a second "living building" is coming to the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, and will incorporate commercial space in addition to offices. Clocking in with a total of 120,000 square feet, the building will include a new headquarters for Brooks Sports. Dubbed Stone34, the building will be right off the the Burke-Gilman Trail, the 27-mile rail-to-trail walking and biking path that snakes through northern portions of Seattle. LMN Architects is helming the design of the five-story building that will recycle most of its water and includes a fresh air ventilation system, natural lighting, and thermal energy storage. Pushing sustainability even further, visitors, customers, and staff will be able to eat the lanscaping: greening by Swift Company will include edible plants. Completion is expected fall of 2013.