Posts tagged with "Marlon Blackwell":

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Marlon Blackwell’s copper-clad “barn” blends tradition with innovation

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Part of a larger master plan funded by the North Dallas Lamplighter School’s “Igniting Young Minds for a Lifetime of Learning” campaign, a new Innovation Lab and Lamplighter Barn are aimed at marrying technology and the school’s storied cooperative learning curriculum.
  • Facade Manufacturer Sterling Roof Systems
  • Architects Marlon Blackwell Architects
  • Facade Installer Sterling Roof Systems
  • Facade Consultants Hill & Wilkinson (general contractors)
  • Location Dallas, TX
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System concealed fastener, flat panel system
  • Products custom fabricated copper panels by Sterling Roof Systems
Both buildings were designed by Arkansas-based architect Marlon Blackwell and represent his first built works in North Texas. The Innovation Lab will be home to a new teaching kitchen, environmental science spaces, a robotics lab, and a woodworking shop. The Lamplighter Barn will replace the campus’s former chicken coop, and with it, add an adjacent outdoor space for the animals of the campus to graze. Although the Lamplighter Barn continues to use the traditional red wooden planks, in line with the beloved existing barn it replaces, the Innovation Lab takes a striking visual direction through linear design moves and the introduction of copper in a broad stroke. “Copper is a durable and elegant material,” Blackwell said. The patina that will form over time will create variation in the facade as it responds to the movement of the sun overhead. The intent to use a long-lasting material was essential to the campus’ direction from the outset. Blackwell’s team developed a profile and standing seam system in line with their experience through the use of similar materials and articulation on past projects. With contractors Hill & Wilkinson and Sterling Roof Systems, details and methods were coordinated prior to fabrication. The resulting concealed-fastener, flat-panel system provides a high-performance facade that minimizes the amount of maintenance required over the long-term life of the building.
Though visually striking, the copper is not completely foreign to the campus—the material relates back to the details that adorn the original structures designed by O’Neil Ford. “The school’s curriculum is progressive, rooted in strong values, and proven to be one of the best in the country,” Blackwell explained. “The material choice not only complements the existing O’Neil Ford campus, it presents a new and substantial language for the school, one of permanence, and value, that continues to change and withstand the test of time.” Bradford Payne, a member of the project team at Marlon Blackwell Architects, said one of the successful details in the building is a "moment of discovery" at the end of an educational kitchen space where a cantilevered window extends sloping roof geometry outward into the site: "Light bleeds out from behind two walls that overlap. It isn’t completely evident from the main corridor where it is coming from, or the view and private oasis it provides. The window elevates off the ground and slopes with the roof, intensifying the reading of the exterior roofs pitching and rolling, that creates resonance with the shed roofs of the existing campus while generating a new architectural language." The Lamplighter School will be the focus of a panel discussion at upcoming Facades+ Dallas on February 20, 2018. Michael Friebele, the conference co-chair, will be moderating a conversation about how client requirements, site considerations, context, and history can improve building envelope design.
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Eisenman to Blackwell: When will you leave Arkansas for New York?

This post is part of our years-long running Eavesdrop series (think page 6 for the architectural field). It’s your best source for gossip, insider stories, and more. Have an eavesdrop of your own? Send it to: eavesdrop[at]archpaper.com.

At a party for Marlon Blackwell in honor of his Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award, Peter Eisenman introduced the Fayetteville-based architect and asked him, rather stupidly, “When are you going to get out of Arkansas and come to New York?” The Architect's Newspaper  thinks it is great that Blackwell is thriving outside the coastal echo-chambers, and we are excited to see what the future has in store for Blackwell and his cronies from the Natural State.

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Marlon Blackwell on the Power of Everyday Design

Marlon Blackwell, principal of Marlon Blackwell Architects and distinguished professor and department head at the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, practices in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the temptation to design according to a derivative vernacular—and the risk of descending into quaintness—is great. Blackwell seeks instead to operate in the space between the vernacular and the universal, to create buildings that are simultaneously both and neither. "What emerges is something that I like to call the strangely familiar," he said. "We're working with forms in a cultural context that have a first reading of being familiar, but on a second, third, or fourth reading are clearly transgressive to either the local typology or the vernacular. What we try to do is kind of de-typify things—it's really about trying to find or develop an idea about performative surfaces." When Blackwell, who will deliver the afternoon keynote address at next month's Facades+ Dallas conference, talks about "performative surfaces," he does not necessarily mean high-tech building skins. "What I'm really talking about is something that's both sensual and sensible," he said. Blackwell prefers a more commonsensical approach to performance. "It's like the chicken farmer," he explained. "Chicken farmers have figured out that if they orient their large chicken sheds so that the narrow part faces east and west, the chickens don't cook before their time." In Arkansas, even high-profile projects like his Vol Walker Hall and Steven L. Anderson Design Center require careful attention to costs. "Given the modest budgets here, most of what we have to achieve is passive," he said. "I'm trying to instill this into buildings that don't necessarily come with honorific programs: they're everyday sorts of buildings, so consequently they're modest in their application or execution, but they're very high in their aspiration." Blackwell's early passion for drawing resonates through his work today. "I grew up as a cartoonist, so everything I've ever conceived of artistically or architecturally has been conceived of as a visage—as a profile or a silhouette," he said. "I really think of the buildings that we make as figures in a place—as having a figural presence. They become the expressive character of a place, and that expressive character is achieved through things like the envelope, rather than trying to achieve expressive character merely through form. As a result, we're able to build things." Blackwell hopes his own career can serve as a positive lesson to Facades+ Dallas attendees. "I'd like them to walk away thinking: I can do that," he concluded. "Not everybody can be Renzo Piano. There's that everyday kind of work that we do—there's no reason the aspiration has to be any different." To learn more about Facades+ Dallas or to register, visit the conference website.
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October 30–31: Facades+ Makes its Dallas Debut

Home to Morphosis' Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Santiago Calatrava–designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and a starchitecture-studded cultural district, Dallas is increasingly an architectural destination in its own right. This fall, AEC industry professionals have one more reason to visit: the inaugural Facades+ Dallas conference, taking place October 30–31 at CityPlace Events. The Facades+ conference's Dallas debut is a homecoming of sorts for the native Texans on the planning team, who include AN founder and publisher Diana Darling, AN managing editor Aaron Seward, and Mode Lab founding partner Ronnie Parsons. The not-to-be-missed event begins with a symposium featuring the movers and shakers of high-performance envelope design, like keynote presenters Antoine Predock and Marlon Blackwell, plus special appearances by Jeremy Strick, Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, and City of Dallas Assistant Director of Public Works Zaida Basora. The symposium is followed by a day of dialog and tech workshops—intimate opportunities for hands-on exposure to real-world examples and cutting-edge design tools. All three afternoon dialog workshops incorporate field trips to either the University of Texas at Arlington or the Renzo Piano–designed Nasher Sculpture Center. Facades+ Dallas attendees will have the opportunity to earn up to 16 AIA CEUs over the course of the two-day conference, as well as to meet and mingle with the leading lights of facade design and construction. To learn more and to register, visit the Facades+ Dallas website.
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Marlon Blackwell Puts on a Clinic with Vol Walker Hall

University of Arkansas  addition celebrates the future with a contemporary rewrite of Neoclassicism.

As head of the architecture department and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell was uniquely qualified to oversee the renovation and expansion of the school's home, Vol Walker Hall. To unite the school's landscape architecture, architecture, and interior design departments under one roof for the first time, Blackwell's eponymous firm designed a contemporary west wing to mirror the east bar on the existing Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the 1930s as the university library. But the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—which tied for Building of the Year in AN's 2014 Best of Design Awards—is more than a container for 37,000 square feet of new studio, seminar, and office space. It is also a teaching tool, a lesson in the evolution of architectural technology writ in concrete, limestone, glass, steel, and zinc.
  • Facade Manufacturer Stone Panels (limestone), Tulsa Dynapan (architectural concrete), Rheinzink (zinc panels), L&L Metal Fabrication (metal/glass curtain wall), Kawneer (other curtain wall)
  • Architects Marlon Blackwell Architect, Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects (associate architect)
  • Facade Installer ACE Glass Construction Corp. (glazing), Baldwin & Shell Construction Company (general contractor)
  • Facade Consultant Heitmann & Associates, Inc. (curtain wall), Clarkson Consulting (concrete)
  • Location Fayetteville, AR
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • System custom curtain wall with frit glass fins, limestone rain screen, zinc panels, architectural precast concrete
  • Products Stone Panels StoneLite limestone rain screen, architectural precast concrete from Tulsa Dynaspan, Rheinzink zinc panels, Viracon frit glass, Kawneer curtain wall, Viracon insulated glass
"Our strategy was to create a counterweight to the existing building," explained Blackwell. Rather than a layered steel-frame construction, Marlon Blackwell Architect opted for a post-tensioned concrete structure to convey a sense of mass and volume. "We also wanted to demonstrate what you can do with new technology like post-tensioned concrete, such as introducing a cantilever and introducing a profile that has minimal columns in the spaces," he said. "All of that is a didactic tool for our students to contrast and compare with the load-bearing technology of the existing structure." The exterior of the Steven L. Anderson Design Center also reflects on changes to architectural practice during the last 80 years. "We really wanted to develop a strong profile of the building, in contrast to Vol Walker Hall," said Blackwell. He describes the effect as a figure-ground reversal: where in the older structure the mass of the building is the ground and the windows and ornament act as figure, in the new wing the mass is the figure and the fenestration the ground. To create what Blackwell terms a "condition of resonance" between the Design Center and Vol Walker Hall, the architects engaged Clarkson Consulting to develop an architectural concrete to match the color of a local Arkansas limestone no longer available. They echoed the Indiana limestone on the older wing with panels sourced from a quarry only 50 miles from the original. But instead of grouting the limestone cladding on the new wing, Blackwell chose a limestone rain screen system from Stone Panels. "That allows us to go much thinner but much larger," he said. "Again, we're using the same materials but showing how the advancement of technology allows for a different expression of architecture." The defining feature of the Design Center is the more than 200-foot-long glass and steel curtain wall on the western facade. Knowing that the western exposure would provide the only source of natural light for the new wing, the architects worked to balance the need for light against the threat of solar gain. To complement the existing building, they chose a fascia steel curtain wall custom-fabricated by local company L&L Metal Fabrication. With curtain wall consultants Heitmann & Associates, Blackwell developed a brise soleil comprising 3/4-inch by 18-inch frit glass fins, angled to filter sunlight into the Design Center's 43-foot-deep studios. "What we like about it, too, is that it's one big window," said Blackwell. "It allows it to feel as if we've cut a section right through the building. At night the entire facade becomes a beacon, allowing for a nice interface between the school of architecture and the rest of the community." Other details, including the monolithic concrete pours designed to lighten the Design Center's connection to the ground, and zinc cladding used on the top floor to sharpen the profile of the main body, continue the dialogue between the new structure and its Neoclassical neighbor. "There are a lot of little things that give a tautness to the expression of the new addition, and give it its own identity," said Blackwell. "But at the same time, one of the things we were faithful to was trying to analyze and uncover units of measure and proportion on the old building, and apply that to ours." Perhaps more importantly, the building works as a design school—and Blackwell would know. "There's certainly contrast on the outside," he said. "But there's an almost resonant seamlessness on the inside."
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Celebrating Design Monterey Style

MDC_LOGO-SIG3-designed by Rebeca Mendez Last weekend's Monterey Design Conference had many special moments--beyond those spent walking the spectacular grounds of the Asilomar center on the Pacific ocean. The conference, which is essentially the bi-annual meeting of the California AIA, is trying to re-brand itself the "MDC" in hopes of encouraging the general public to attend. But the conference has been M.C.ed for the past dozen years by Robert Ivy, Chief Executive Officer of the AIA and once again he did a brilliant job (with help from Larry Scarpa) of keeping the event moving along between wine tastings, a small trade show and attendees' desire to escape the darkened conference hall for a walk on the beach. Ivy began the weekend with a bit of AIA news from the AIA Octagon by announcing that (after 50 years of trying) the AIA is reducing its board of directors from 52 down to a more manageable 11-15 members. It has been nearly impossible for a group of this size to meet regularly and a smaller board should be more nimble and allow a reconstructed board "council" to act as working groups to research AIA issues. Ivy also reported that he had just flown in from New York and attended the Clinton Global Initiative where he began a relationship with the organization that will focus on how design can create "a healthier environment." But the real meat of this conference has always been design--celebrating its masters, introducing young firms, and honoring its elders. The first session began with a talk by Fayetteville-based Marlon Blackwell who has spent several decades working in a state he calls "home of Bill and a billion chickens." Claiming he had just "cut his mullet" for the event Blackwell went on to show his well-crafted regionalist projects that he says are placed on a site between the ideal (think Fay Jones' Throwncrown Chapel) and the improvised local jeryrigged landscape. He riffed on his well known TV dish (purchased for two cases of beer) turned dome for his St Nicolas Church project. Next up was emerging San Francisco practice Brian Price who showed multiple digitally rendered projects but thus far his work is mostly unbuilt. He is recently relocated from the Ivy league hothouse of the East Coast and this will hopefully allow him to build and craft a real project. The evening finished with Anne Fougeron showing her elegant residential projects, including a dramatic cantilevered house hanging over a steep Big Sur cliff. The second day began (after 6am "restorative" yoga on the beach) with Thomas Phifer who presented his beautifully detailed institutional and residential projects up and down the East Coast and in Houston. He began his presentation "Outside In: Architecture in the Landscape" with Dan Graham and Michael Heizer images and it was fun to watch this East Coast architect lecture the West Coast on light, reflectivity, and nature while they ogled his hard-edged glass walls. Ivy introduced the young San Francisco practice Future Cities Lab who like their Los Angeles cohorts Dwayne Oyler and Jenny Wu showed their formal research into media walls, networking ("communicative surfaces"), distribution, and latticed space frames. These young designers are like, many of their generation, more interested in formal research and installations than actual buildings or even social engagement. Further, the work of these young firms is pointedly performative in how it conceives of its practice and presents itself, with the Oyler Wu Collaborative even showing a time lapse video of the construction of their recent Sci Arc graduation pavilion. But the smaller Asilomar break out sessions presented several young practitioners who do wed design and social engagement in a compelling new formulations like computational designer German Aparicio founder of informedCITIES talked about his research on real-time data, systems and networks and how maps, GIS, data visualization, urban sensing can be put at the disposal of design projects. These Pecha Kucha-style sessions also included a convincing talk "Mighty Hand: Hand Drawing Within the BIM Workflow" by Jess Field who went to describe the benefits of hand drawing and what digital renderings leave out like a reference to scale and the human body. The AIA then presented Jack MacAllister with a lifetime Achievement award and he sat in a large chair on the stage and told folksy tales of sixty years of practice. Later that day Odile Decq and Kengo Kuma presented their work which are both highly inventive but could not have been more unlike in built form and materials. Decq showed her black and red designs for the MACRO in Rome, the Garnier Opera restaurant and a sleek yacht design for an Italian client. Kumo eschews contemporary materials for materials (built by local artisans when possible) like wood, adobe, and ceramic tiles that he claims strive for "building that harmonizes with the climate and environment of the place." Both designers had their adherents in the audience as Kuma's traditional materials certainly has affinities with Bar Region traditions and Decq's pure formalism, which resonates with contemporary Los Angels designers. Different groups gave each standings ovations after their presentations. The presentations ended with a warm tribute to Thom Mayne who seemed to be concerned that this awards might harm his "bad boy image," but was described as a warm, supportive, and helpful colleague to younger practices in California.  
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Monterey Design Conference Kicks Off This Weekend at Scenic Asilomar

The California AIA's biennial Monterey Design Conference is on the next two days—September 27th and 28th—at Asilomar, the glorious Julia Morgan– and John Carl Warnecke–designed center on the Pacific Ocean in Pacific Grove. The conference will feature lectures by Thom Mayne, Marlon Blackwell, Thomas Phifer, Kengo Kuma, and AN board member Odile Decq. But first up this morning was Greg Otto from Buro Happold who presented various Happold projects that were created using a multi-disciplinary approach and discussed design and legal issues around responsibility and how these "stress traditional design assumptions." Otto also discussed his ongoing New York projects with Jeff Koons who wants to make large steel structures look "like marshmallows." Next a Pecha Kucha–type session on Technology Serving Design where German Aparicio, CCA and UCLA professor and AECOM architect, presented his "informedCITIES" digital data research on urbanism and how it can be applied to design. Aparicio has done fascinating urban metrics research on pre- and post-earthquake Christchurch, New Zealand. It's great to be at an architecture conference that does not just discuss local or regional issues but brings in the world's most important designers to present work of high quality and offers a 6:00a.m. "restorative wake-up Yoga" session sponsored by Academy for Emerging Professionals.
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Marlon Blackwell Weaves Plywood At The Crystal Bridges Museum

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Marlon Blackwell uses ribbed ceiling to evoke craft while mitigating contemporary challenges at Arkansas museum.

The setting for the gift shop at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art seems idyllic—a vast glass wall opens onto a entry courtyard that gives way to a placid pond reflecting the Ozarks landscape. But to create a design for the 3,100 square-foot space in Bentonville, Arkansas, architect Marlon Blackwell had to overcome multiple hurdles. The first: a thicket of concrete columns supporting the green roof of the Moshe Safdie-designed building. Next: the west-facing glass wall, which made heat gain an issue. And finally: the very small budget (the total project cost was $644,000).
  • Fabricator UDI
  • Architect Marlon Blackwell Architect
  • Location Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Date of Completion  Late 2011
  • Material   Cherry plywood
  • Process  AlphaCAM CAD/CAM 3-D modeling, CNC routing
Blackwell’s solution to all three problems was a concept inspired in part by local Arkansas basket weaver Leon Niehues, whose work is now sold in the museum shop. Niehues’ pieces are distinguished by their vertical “ribs.” The wrapper of rib-like forms devised by Blackwell begins at the top of the exterior glass wall, where it acts as a sunscreen, and extends across the ceiling and down the long eastern interior wall where shelving is integrated into the system. Made of locally sourced cherry plywood, the final effect is less wicker-work and more chanterelle—Blackwell’s ribs, which span roughly 30 feet, evoke the gills on the underside of a mushroom cap. But the arc-shaped plan of the building complicated matters. “It was a curved volume, so we couldn’t reference a radius,” said Blackwell. “We used straight lines, which looks great but demanded that each rib had to be slightly different.” Each of the 223 undulating ribs is composed of up to four segments of joined planks 8 inches wide and 3/4-inches thick. Using 3-D modeling and AlphaCAM CAD/CAM software, Blackwell’s team translated the design to CNC routers in the millwork shop of Adam Weaver at UDI Inc, in Rogers, Arkansas. Weaver deployed two routers at once to stay on deadline—an Onsrud CNC and a Northwood CNC—and an optimizer insured that there was as little wasted material as possible. From 480 sheets of plywood emerged the 700 cut pieces for the ribs, each inscribed with a number and with the screw holes and the overlapping joins pre-cut. Once the material was delivered to the site, the contractors used a plum line and a laser to align then suspend components from the ceiling. The ribs gradually took shape one piece at a time. “It was like stacking stone,” said Blackwell, noting that everything snapped into place in under six weeks during construction in 2011. The rib system filters out up to 40 percent of the daylight and not only finesses the existing concrete columns but also conceals sprinklers and the store’s lighting system. Blackwell use of cherry planks for the floor creates a unified and warm space that complements the wares on display for only $200 per square foot.
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Creative Corridor Plan Unveiled to Revitalize Little Rock

Marlon Blackwell, architect and professor at the Fay Jones School of Architecture, and Steve Luoni, architect and director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, have unveiled a masterplan for converting Little Rock's Main Street into a cultural center. The plan titled, The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization will include a pedestrian promenade, outdoor furniture, LED lighting installations, rain gardens, affordable living-units for artists and a renovation of downtown buildings for mixed-use. Luoni notes that execution is expected to occur in phases. The first objective is to separate the district from the rest of Main Street by using original lighting—potentially made up of old city street lights and composed into a light art installation—distinct landscaping, and purpose-built architectural pavement. The second phase plans to anchor the site at the intersection of Capitol and Main Street with a central public square containing an outdoor amphitheater and large LED screen reminiscent of Times Square monitors. The third phase hopes to densify the perimeters of Main Street with trees, rain gardens, terraces and a pedestrian promenade. The fourth is the creation of the transit district in coordination with the Metroplan’s scheduled expansion proposals and new bike lanes. As the project gets going, Little Rock’s Mayor Mike Studola plans to use the city’s EPA grant to create smaller-scale demonstrations of the ideas presented in the masterplan. Although the plan is intended to place Little Rock on the map of towns with unique urban designs, execution relies heavily on private dollars. In order to receive funding the location would have to draw crowds as an art center and Luoni has already discussed receiving support from various visual arts, film, dance and music organizations including the Arkansas Repertory Theater and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The presentation of “The Creative Corridor” was held at the Arkansas Repertory Theater and made possible by a $150,000 Our Town Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Upon earning the NEA grant Luoni commented, “The project has the potential to be a national model for consolidating cultural arts functions—artist housing, production spaces, galleries and performance spaces—as a catalyst for sustained urban development in downtown. We are proud that the NEA recognizes this potential and has directed resources from its signature grant program for this project." As of yet, funding for the full completion of the proposal has not been determined but Mayor Studola, architect Luoni and architect Blackwell remain on board to see it through.
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Gustafson Awarded Brunner Memorial Prize

Kathryn Gustafson Kathryn Gustafson, founding partner of Seattle-based landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol has been awarded the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an annual award honoring an architect who has made significant contributions to architecture as an art. Jury member James Polshek noted in a statement, "The power of her imagination and the precision of her execution have enriched the many natural and man-made places she has touched with her magic." The Academy also awarded five Arts & Letters Awards to Hilary Ballon, Marlon Blackwell, Elizabeth Gray, Alan Organschi, and Michael Maltzan. The awards will be presented this May in New York City.
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The WAF Winner Is

The World Architecture Festival is wrapping up its fourth iteration and AN has been there since the beginning as official United States media sponsor. We have seen it grow from a small mostly British bash in Barcelona to a truly international competition and trade show with over 1,400 participants from 68 countries. One of the functions of our participation is that I serve as official judge in one of the event's 15 short-listed categories for best built project (plus there are ten categories for unrealized projects). This year I served with Michigan University's architecture dean Monica Ponce de Leon and Barcelona architect Fermin Vazquez as jurors in the Civic and Community group. We were asked to select the best of show in the category with the winner going on to the final round where it is considered by a super jury including Michael Sorkin, Jo Noera, Odile Decq (who sadly was stuck in China) and engineer wizard Tim Macfarlane. This year's Civic and Community category had a strong list of participants from Vietnam, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, South Africa, Iran and six other countries including the United States. The jurors had a spirited debate that focused on whether we should support and promote "worthy" projects with small budgets and limited architectural goals or just look at the quality of the architecture regardless of budget, materials or expression. This debate seemed to come down to looking at each project as either "worthy" or "corporate (or chalk and cheese)" as one Brit juror put it.  Worthy projects were pretty obvious, but what made a particular project corporate was open to dispute and debate. Does it mean it comes out of a corporate practice or an expression of a certain commercial client/designer relationship. I was supportive of two projects that another juror argued were corporate. I saw one as simply a well-designed project of steel and glass. Never mind. In the end, the jury selected Marlon Blackwell's Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Arkansas the winner. This small $150 per square foot building transformed an existing three-car garage structure into an extraordinary roadside chapel that everyone should see on their next trip to Arkansas. The metal church went on to the final round but lost out to the Media-ICT by home team Cloud 9 architects that is just down the road from the festival in Barcelona. By chance the festival even had its opening night party at the Media-ICT.  In spite of its sickly green lighting that made us all look ill, it is another really wonderful contemporary Barcelona building. For more winners go to the WAF website.