One of Louisville’s largest architectural eyesores recently received a shiny upgrade by Kentucky-based firm EOP Architects and HOK Chicago. The Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC), a 960,000-square-foot facility located downtown in the heart of the state’s largest city, reopened to the public this month after a two-year, $207 million renovation. Thanks to a vision supported by the state, city, and the community, the glass-enclosed structure looks nothing like its dark, concrete-clad former self. The Brutalist building, long-despised by Louisville natives, now features a new transparent face along its western facade and includes improved public circulation spaces representing the structure’s new “extroverted personality,” according to HOK. The KICC has undergone several renovations since opening in 1977, but none of them were this dramatic. The architects collaborated with convention center specialist Donald Grinberg, FAIA, on the transformative design, updating its main entrance on Fourth Street and building a canopy with a colored lighting display to create a more welcoming experience for visitors. The glass panel exterior appears to undulate as the light shines on it throughout the day. Hovering over the sidewalk outside the property line, the upper-level floors provide sweeping views that are unattainable anywhere else in the building. EOP Architects’ design partner and co-founder Rick Ekhoff explained that the flowing transparent curtain wall is a nod to Louisville’s history as a river city, and the new canopy symbolizes its extensive park system and the many local landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. “We designed KICC to connect with the culture, people, and spirit of Louisville,” he said. “By incorporating the visual analogies to these images and making them a part of the story behind the design—even in an abstract way—it connected with the community from the very beginning.” Vertical oak wood paneling is a central design feature found throughout the bright interior and references the local bourbon distilleries that populate the Bluegrass State. The material starkly separates the “pre-function” gathering spaces—new areas for people to congregate before events—from the 40,000-square-foot ballroom and the 200,125 square feet of exhibit spaces. The redesign also included the addition of a 175-seat conference theater as well as new hybrid morning and evening restaurant called Oak & Brew. Peter Ruggiero, design principal at HOK’s Chicago practice, highlighted the much-improved wayfinding within the newly-renovated structure and the simplified circulation paths that open up the interiors to the outdoor spaces. “This structure was what I called an urban introvert,” he said. “It didn’t engage the city and was very inwardly focused. It spoke to the nature of how convention centers were built in big cities forty years ago. There were big pieces of the interior program that needed to be flexible and adapt to differently sized shows, exhibits, and venues, but we believed there was no reason why the circulation and gathering spaces needed to be part of this internalized world.” The architects decided to place those spaces outside the larger, main venues and expose them to the light afforded by the new clear facade. They also integrated a central stair, configured in the spirit of a grand staircase, according to Ruggiero, that doubles as a meeting point with bleacher-like seating for alternative, informal events. Uniquely-shaped skylights create puddles of light and interesting shadows throughout the circulation spaces. At night, the building becomes a lantern in the city and illuminates the downtown streetscape. According to Ekhoff, the new design has already impacted development in the area. He sees the city’s tourism increasing now that the center looks like an inviting place to visit and invest in. “If the city had a living room," Eckhoff said, "KICC would be it."
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The Owsley Brown II History Center is just one part of a unified campus expansion for The Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky. Located in the historic neighborhood of Old Louisville, the project reinterprets the surrounding Italianate architecture in a contemporary way. de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop (DPAW) played with proportionality, depth, and layering of materials to achieve this.
The building’s massing is composed of two equal volumes on the east and west of a central atrium. Both volumes are of the same height and footprint of the houses in the neighborhood. Each portion is clad with brick veneer and glass curtain wall, while the atrium facade is a frameless glass wall. A custom-fabricated metal cornice reminiscent of the Italianate-style caps the whole building. DPAW detailed the two brick volumes based on the programmatic needs of the interior. The east portion of the building contains the archives and has an expansive north-facing glass curtain wall that allows for ample indirect daylight. On the west, the facade articulates the fenestration with smaller openings and encloses two stacked event halls. The horizontal panel joints on the brick veneer continue the elevation lines from the surrounding context and recede as the building increases in height. At most of the curtain wall, DPAW included curved precast concrete fins on either side of the openings. The color and striation of the concrete matches the adjacent brick paneling. These fins express the flatness of construction of brick veneer and contrast the load-bearing masonry walls of the surrounding brick buildings. The atrium between the east and west volumes is a continuation of the exterior plaza leading up to the entry of the building. A frameless glass wall with spider fittings and glass fins clads the space, opening up the facade to an unimpeded view of the monumental wood-slat stairs in the interior. Drawing inspiration again from the surrounding buildings, DPAW detailed this stair as a contemporary interpretation of the older, elaborate wood staircases. Due to its historic nature, the neighborhood’s residents met the project with initial backlash. DPAW coordinated with the city’s Landmark Commission on the design and detailing of the facade. They worked to ensure that it fit within the historic context without being a faux imitation of the existing architecture. Furthermore, the project team worked with the builders and contractors to push the envelope of standard construction and detailing to arrive at their clean facade.
Branden Klayko, an urbanist, journalist, and former senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper (AN), whose intense and diverse interests spanned several fields and media, died after a battle with leukemia. He was 33 years old. “He really began our whole website, it was an incredible project to take on,” said William Menking, AN’s editor-in-chief. “But he also knew architecture well and had a deep understanding of the field.” Klayko devoted six years of his career to AN, transitioning the primarily print periodical to a web-savvy publication and eventually overseeing the site’s current responsive design. As a writer Klayko was well versed in developments throughout New York City, but he will perhaps be best remembered for Broken Sidewalk, a website devoted to his hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. Launched in 2008, Klayko continued to run the site remotely throughout his years in New York. Former AN Editor Alan Brake, now editor at Oculus, admired the site. “He was interested in tactical urbanism as an emerging toolset, so that people, designers, and non-designers, could make changes to the places they live,” said Brake, adding that while Klayko held a degree in architecture from Washington University, many of his skills were self-taught. “He didn’t come from a writing background, same with coding and website development. He just taught himself how to do all that.” Brake, also from Louisville, said that despite living in New York, Klayko remained an “important voice in improving the city” and used vacation time to stage events there. In a statement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Klayko’s writing “went beyond criticism to offering specific ideas for improvement.” Both Menking and Brake agreed that Klayko rooted his criticism in classicism and was not particularly enamored with the avant-garde. “He saw Louisville as torn apart by the post-war modern architecture and he was just not interested in new for the sake of being new,” said Menking. “He was in favor of melding post-World War II architecture to the the pre-modern city.” “He really believed that you can’t just think about buildings sitting on plane, you have to think about safety, the street, you have to think about the humanist aspect of the city,” said his wife Melissa Baird, an architect with Louisville-based WorK Architecture + Design. She said Klayko’s sensibilities were born of an idealized childhood spent in Wooster, Ohio. “He was very much an American: Kentucky, Ohio, New York,” she said. “He had great memories of Wooster, of his mom walking down the street and of taking public transit. That shaped his ideas of what cities and towns could be.” Baird said the two met through a mutual friend and she was charmed by his “hyper passionate” nature. She said his interests ranged from the writings of novelist Wendell Berry to entomology, the study of insects. She noted that one of his last Facebook posts included a quote by Berry:
It may be that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and that when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.
She added that Klayko also collected domain names, which he concisely organized on a spreadsheet, including, “Bugopolis.org: the Urbanism of Bugs.”
“You better believe that he wanted to pursue that too,” she said.
Brought to you with support fromThe Speed Art Museum, located in Louisville, Kentucky is the state’s oldest and largest art museum; it is a major cultural repository for the region. wHY’s concept to carefully and precisely intervene on the existing museum, described by the firm as “acupuncture architecture,” set the project apart from other proposals solicited by the museum’s international search for an architecture firm to develop a comprehensive strategy for the museum’s growth and expansion. While the interior work on the 200,000-square-foot project has been celebrated for enhanced connectivity and openness, the exterior simultaneously works to reflect the immediate surroundings of the site, which is embedded within a network of Frederick Law Olmsted–designed parks and parkways, as well as opposite a residential neighborhood and university. The most prominent component of the project is a 60,000-square-foot north pavilion, formed by stacking three shifted volumes sheathed in fritted glass and folded aluminum panels. This materiality emulates the classical moldings of the original museum building and produces a dynamic change in response to the natural light. The project team produced five modules of zig-zagged panels that are combined in a random order across the facade. These panels are incorporated into a concealed-fastener rainscreen system, attached to a secondary steel frame and Centria thermal insulation panels. Coloration and reflectivity parameters were extensively tested on site with the owner prior to final selections. In addition to folded metal panels, glazing panels in the curtain wall feature a custom frit material. The patterning consists of a staggered gradient pattern composed of small half-inch rectangles, dissolving from 99% coverage at the roof line to zero percent at ground level for transparency at eye level. The frit is mirrored on the outside, and matte on the inside, a combination which Andrija Stojic, design director at wHY, says was challenging to achieve, but an essential component of the project: “It doesn’t create a barrier, and produces a very different effect when you’re standing outside compared to inside. It was very difficult to achieve this because we were unable to find a US manufacturer willing to produce a dual-coated frit.” This led wHY’s team to a successful collaboration with Mexico-based Cristacurva, who were able to work together on design and production of the highly specific finish. Stojic concludes, “The point for us is to detail in a manner that looks so clean and simple that it will almost disappear. How the metal panel meets the glass, or the continuation of one panel to another. We try to make these moments as simple as possible. Detailing this project was a challenge for us, but also one of the most exciting aspects of the project.” wHY opened an office in Louisville as a result of the project and continues to deliver projects in the region from this location. This adds a midwest office to wHY’s presence on both coasts (Los Angeles and New York City).
Detroit’s Jefferson-Chalmers District has been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The early 20th-century commercial district is the first neighborhood in the National Trust’s new ReUrbanism initiative. Built primarily in the 1920s, Jefferson Avenue on Detroit's Lower Eastside was once a key commercial district for the city. In the past 40 years the Jefferson-Chalmers District, like much of Detroit, has struggled with economic instability due to loss of manufacturing jobs and population. The area currently has a significant number of vacant properties, many of which are in desperate need of maintenance. Jefferson-Chalmers is Michigan’s first National Treasure. The area is home to many of Detroit’s more historic 1920s structures, including the iconic Vanity Ballroom. This portion of the community, located along the along the Detroit River, also includes a series of canals. Recent years have seen an increased commitment from residents and business owners to revitalize the neighborhood. The Trust’s goal is to encourage urban areas to utilize their current built assets to realize affordable, sustainable, and livable cities. The ReUrbanism initiative follows a set of ten principles, which range from “Cities are only successful when they work for everyone” to “Preservation is adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse is preservation.” The "Heart of Louisville," Kentucky, has also been included as a National Treasure in the ReUrbanism initiative. Another program within the National trust is the Preservation Green Lab, a research guided initiative to reimagine uses for old urban buildings and blocks. Research conducted at the Preservation Green Lab led to a report and recommendation to list the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, while project managers in the neighbor outline a path forward. Using big data, mapping, spatial analysis, the initiative bridges the gap between preservationists, developers, and policy makers. The Preservation Green Lab takes the positions that reusing and retrofitting vacant and underused buildings is key to helping cities become more sustainable, economically and environmentally.
Louisville installation elicits fabric-like behavior from wood.PART Studio designed and built their plywood Peek-a-boo Curtain in just four days, after a last-minute invitation from Louisville arts and business networking organization I.D.E.A.S. 40203. "We went to a meeting, talked about it, then drove to the plywood store," recalled principal Nathan Smith. Luckily, the architects were not starting from scratch. Rather, Smith and partner Mark Foxworth seized the opportunity to build a full-scale mock-up of an idea they had been tossing around for some time: a curtain that, though built of wood, would behave like fabric. Staged at FirstBuild, a design and fabrication studio run through a partnership between GE Appliances and Local Motors, the exhibition also gave the designers a chance to explore the space between art and commerce. "With our piece we were looking not only to span the specific interests of the groups involved, but also to consider the relationships between product design, art, and architectural design," said Smith. The imminent deadline meant that Smith and Foxworth had to use the tools at hand, namely their studio’s own small-format laser cutter. The choice placed certain limits on the design. "Laser-cutting is great, but it gives you a lot of constraints because there aren’t that many materials you can use," said Smith. The architects opted for 1/8-inch-thick plywood. The size of the cutting bed also informed the scale of the individual tiles. The upside was that "because the tiles were so small, we could get a certain amount of fabric behavior," explained Smith. PART Studio developed the tiles' perforation pattern in Grasshopper, using a twisting-triangle shape to simulate a human body passing through the curtain, and exploring multiple iterations until they found one they liked. The designers had earlier tested the curtain concept for an interior design project, a dressing room. "In that, the open and closed relationships were pretty specific to the pattern," said Smith. "In the context of an art exhibit, it was more important to take the openness and opacity to extremes because it was a compositional thing." With respect to assembly, said Smith, Peek-a-boo Curtain "is frankly not a very difficult project from a technical standpoint." The architects wanted to laser-cut or otherwise fabricate square metal rings to attach the tiles to one another. But with just a few days to build, and with zero budget, they opted for an easier solution: yellow zip ties. The tiles are arranged in vertical columns, then staggered horizontally. Each component has a total of six holes for vertical and lateral connections. "The original hole pattern didn't work out; the tie holes were a little close," said Smith. As for staggering the tiles, "that was a big discussion that actually ended up making it a little less fluid," he said. "We liked the pattern, but it would’ve been a little more graceful if we'd done it straight. We thought it would have a more fabric-like stitched-together visual, and it does, but it behaves more like fabric as an actual grid." Peek-a-Boo Curtain, which Smith and Foxworth hope to refine for specific interiors projects, is part of the firm's broader mission to change Louisville’s design culture, one small project at a time. "We prefer to do installations and micro design-builds to competitions," said Smith. "We're in a very small market. For our practice, it doesn't really help us to show our clients a museum in Helsinki." But what they can do is participate in the area's nascent art scene, from organizing a competition for the annual Festival of Riverboats to putting on design-based shows at the Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft. "We've been able to have a consistent practice in a way that wouldn’t have been possible two years ago," said Smith. "We're trying to do work, to do things like Peek-a-boo Curtain and whatever comes through the door, but at the same time we’re trying to improve the conditions, culturally, for where we are working."
In January Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer implored local designers and developers to propose ideas for 250 of the city’s several thousand vacant lots. Last week they announced four winners, which included gardens of dye plants for local textile production; a Habitat for Humanity–style homeownership program; environmental remediation via lavender fields; and meditation gardens made of recycled materials. The Lots of Possibility competition announced its intention to award two winners $15,000 for long-term residential or commercial development, while up to two more could receive a one-year land lease and $4,000 to implement temporary ideas. “The Lots of Possibility applicants brought us bold and creative ideas on how to transform these vacant lots into assets that advance sustainability and improve neighborhoods,” Fischer said in a statement. “The hope is that their ideas will have a ripple effect and inspire other creative and innovative uses.” Read more about the winners below in their own language, and read their full proposals by clicking through: 1.dye Scape (Pictured at top) 609 N. 17th St., 1655 Portland Ave. and 1657 Portland Ave. (Permanent Use) Submitted by Colleen Clines and Maggie Clines with the Anchal Project and Louis Johnson. The urban textile landscape is a network of small-scale gardens that cultivate plant fibers, animal fibers, and dye plants for the purpose of natural textile production. This site is intended to demonstrate the potential of plants to provide natural color to materials, teach residents environmental sustainability and entrepreneurship, and support local textile production. 2. Graduating to Homeownership 2926/8 Dumesnil Ave. (Permanent Use) Submitted by Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville and the Family Scholar House (Rob Locke, Jackie Isaacs, and Harvetta Ray). Using Habitat for Humanity’s volunteer construction model, a new energy efficient home will be constructed near the Parkland Family Scholar House (FSH) for a new graduate of the program. The FSH seeks to end the generational cycle of poverty through education, and by staying in the neighborhood, the graduate can continue to benefit from and provide benefit to the FSH community. A new program will also be created to provide financial counseling and application assistance to enable more families to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home. 3. Lots of Lavender 816 S 7th St., 526 N 17th St., and 1811 Lytle St. (Interim Use) Submitted by Christopher Head and oSha Shireman. Redirected rainwater, vegetated bioswales and French drains will be used to support lavender herb beds for decoration, potpourri, and oil of lavender production. This pilot project also seeks to demonstrate the potential of low maintenance/low mow plantings for vacant lots across the city. This project will be conducted in partnership with the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association and I.D.E.A.S. 40203. 4. Meditation Labyrinth 3831 Hale Ave. (Interim Use) Submitted by West Louisville Women’s Coalition (Ramona Lindsey, Elmer Lucille Allen, Chenoweth Allen, Wilma Bethel, Robin Bray, Ellyn Crutcher, Beth Henson, Gwendolyn Kelly, Pam Newman, Tyra Oldham and Harvetta Ray). This project will create an intergenerational open space for art and creativity. Community arts outreach will be paired with a walking path made out of personalized clay pavers and chalkboard walls made from recycled wood pallets and natural seating.
It's beginning to sound a bit like a broken record, but for the umpteenth time, the conclusion has been drawn that the riverfront interstate, I-64, in Louisville, Kentucky, is a problem. That along with a lot of other advice—some insightful, some, like, “duh!”—was included in a new $300,000 master plan for the city developed by the firms MKSK, Development Strategies, City Visions, and Urban 1. The more insightful bits include ways of reconnecting Portland and west side neighborhoods with the urban core. The obvious, but still necessary, include the 42 million (that figure is a bit of hyperbole) surface parking spaces. Have you ever flown into Louisville? The downtown looks like a mall parking lot. Mayor Greg Fischer, don’t let this advice fall on deaf ears… again.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer started 2014 off with a call to citizens: Help the city come up with creative ideas to redevelop vacant land. Local and far-flung designers are invited to re-imagine the land in a new competition. The winners of the Lots of Possibility competition will be awarded a total of $38,000 to put their vision into action. That money comes from local grant funding. A jury will choose six finalists in each of the competition’s two categories: residential or commercial use; and proposals involving temporary or interim use of vacant lots. Up to two winners will get $15,000 for long-term residential or commercial development, while up to two more could receive a one-year land lease and $4,000 to implement temporary ideas. “The rules for this competition are simple—be creative and be bold,” Fischer said in a press release. Louisville recently launched its VAPStat (Vacant and Abandoned Property Statistics) program to share public information about abandoned properties, foreclosure and redevelopment opportunities. There are more than 6,000 vacant lots in the area, with a high concentration in western Louisville. A 2013 study estimated about half of the approximately 6,000 vacant properties would “be remedied through normal market forces.” The Louisville/Jefferson County Landbank Authority and the Urban Renewal Commission own many more sites that they’re working to redevelop. More than 250 lots (list) have been made available for the Lots of Possibility competition. “[T]he faster the number of VAP properties are reduced,” reads the VAPStat study, “the sooner they become revenue-producing real estate and the sooner they start to have positive effects on their surrounding neighborhoods.” Sponsoring the competition are the Department of Community Services and Revitalization, Vision Louisville and the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, funded in part by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The competition page lists as inspiration St. Louis' Sustainable Land Lab, Youngstown, Ohio's Lots of Green program, and Flint, Michigan's Flatlot competition. Entries are due Feb. 24. The winners will be announced in April. Entry information here.
Louisville, Kentucky has asked its residents for help in determining the future vision for the city, and citizens sent in thousands of ideas on how to improve Possibility City. Among the crowd-sourced suggestions were many promoting alternative transportation, whether improving bike infrastructure to building light rail to, well, even more alternative methods of getting around. Local Russ Renbarger proposed what he calls RiverZips, a mile-long zip line across the Ohio River that would convey people between Kentucky and Indiana—more of a ride than an adventure, says Insider Louisville. Renbarger is founder of digital marketing firm Red Tag Ideas, based in the city’s suburban East End. It sounds far-fetched, but a recent municipal push to liven up Louisville could be just what his idea needs. The plan calls for attaching the zip line high atop a railroad-bridge-turned-pedestrian-bridge that connects downtown Jeffersonville, Indiana with Louisville's Hargreaves-designed Waterfront Park. Riders would land in a staging area in the park near the base of the Big Four Bridge. Mayor Greg Fischer called ziplines “far-out” while he unveiled citizens’ ideas for the Vision Louisville project, in comparison to more practical plans to revitalize the city, like more bike lanes. There are some logistical difficulties to the RiverZips proposal: the heads of the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation worried it would sit idle in the winter, and perhaps be “too obtrusive” at other times. Renbarger said the launch platforms could be removed, if necessary, and that a nearby iceskating rink could use the site’s base for vending during the winter. A former member of the Army Corps of Engineers, Renbarger says the 1-mile zipline is plausible. For now, though, the idea remains unfunded. But Renbarger, a “man about town” who appeared on the reality TV show "Southern Belles: Louisville," has people talking.
Maybe You Lost My Number: Eavesdrop wants to know why we weren’t invited to your Kentucky Derby party, De Leon and Primmer. You guys are practically the only cool architecture firm in the River City! We were down in Louisville the weekend of the Derby and wandered (hungover, naturally) past your office on Sunday morning. That new bright green, sort of trellised structure erected in front of your place was really enticing. We wandered through that and did a little look-y loo in the windows of your studio, where we noticed the remnants of a party, like, 15 empty bourbon bottles. You guys, bourbon is Eavesdrop’s favorite beverage. We have so much in common! Call us! Don’t Hold Indiana Against Them: Driving I-65 the length of Indiana is so unbearable with its “Hell is REAL” billboards and endless Monsanto fields of pesticides, but it’s necessary to get from Chicago to the South. On our way home from the Derby, we were reminded of two places we’ve been meaning to stop and stretch our legs—and, no, it’s not the outlet mall. Seasonal tours at the Saarinen-designed Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, have restarted. The house is now owned and maintained by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the second place in Indiana we’ve been meaning to check out. This Architectural Life: The drive wasn’t that bad because I discovered a must-listen radio show devoted to design and architecture: 99% Invisible on WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station. Look it up!
The Bruner Foundation Inc. has named the 2013 Gold and Silver Medalists of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA). For twenty-five years, the foundation has celebrated urban projects that stand out for their “contributions to the social, economic, and communal vitality of our nation's cities” with this biennial award. A panel of six urbanists—including such experts as Cathy Simon, design principal at Perkins + Will, and Mayor Mick Cornett, Oklahoma City—selected the four Silver Medalists, and the recipient of the $50,000 Gold Medal, Inspiration Kitchens in Chicago. “Our twenty-fifth anniversary Rudy Bruner Award winners highlight the diversity of innovation in our cities today,” says Simeon Bruner, founder of RBA, in a statement. “They show us urban excellence at all scales and inspire us with their optimism.” The Gold Medal winner, Inspiration Kitchens is a nonprofit, that provides a restaurant training program for homeless or economically challenged individuals at its 80-seat LEED Gold certified facility on Chicago’s west side. The Bruner Foundation will award $10,000 to four Silver Medalists, including: Congo Street Initiative, Dallas, TX: The LEED Gold or Platinum-certified restoration of five family houses and the construction of a sixth, in addition to the creation of green infrastructure that includes stormwater management and solar power and solar thermal systems. Louisville Waterfront Park, Louisville, KY: An 85-acre urban park, once an abandoned industrial swathe of land, transformed over the course of two decades into a vibrant greenspace and waterfront community that provides a link to the city with the Ohio River. The Steel Yard, Providence, RI: A 3.5-acre historic steel fabrication facility that serves as a center for arts education, workforce training, and small-scale manufacturing. Via Verde, Bronx, NY: A 222-unit, LEED Gold certified, affordable housing development in the Bronx, designed by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw, featuring green roofs and solar panels.