At first glance, the glass-observation boxes that jut out of the Willis Tower’s 103rd floor don’t look all that safe—and that is exactly the point. The SOM-designed attraction, known as the Ledge, opened in 2009 and offers “thrill seekers,” “death defiers,” and “people who can wait in a really long line” the chance to step outside of the iconic skyscraper and look straight down at the streets of Chicago, 1,353-feet below. The floor of the suspended structure is comprised of 1.5-inch laminated glass panels, which can hold 10,000 pounds and withstand four tons of pressure. So, the danger is all imagined, right? Well, it certainly didn't feel that way for a California family who visited last night. When Alejandro Garibay and some of his family members stepped onto one of the boxes, they noticed cracks on the glass floor, which, remember, is suspended 1,353 feet above ground. Garibay, told NBC 5 Chicago that it was a "crazy feeling and experience." You don't say! According to Bill Utter, a spokesperson for the Willis Tower, there was nothing to fear. He told the Chicago Sun Times that it was only the coating that cracked and that the structural integrity of the Ledge was not impacted. “Occasionally this happens, but that’s because we designed it this way,” he told the paper. “Whatever happened last night is a result of the protective coating doing what it’s designed to.” NBC 5 Chicago reports that the Ledge is closed today for what an official calls a "routine inspection."
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It’s a battle of the starchitects in Mexico City—and the Brits are leading the pack. Out of the seven finalists short-listed to design an expansion for the capital city's airport, Benito Juarez International, four hail from the UK: Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Pascall+Watson. They are joined in the final round by Teodoro González de León with Taller de Arquitectura X, SOM, and Gensler. All of these teams are being led by Mexican practices, and construction could begin later this year. The multi-billion dollar expansion should accommodate 40 million annual passengers at over 70 new gates. The airport's current cheese-grater-like facade in Terminal 2 was completed by Serrano Arquitectos in 2008. The envelope's many circular windows are used to maximize natural daylight within the terminal year round. [Via Architects' Journal]
Blair Kamin convened a panel of designers at the Chicago Architecture Foundation last Wednesday for a discussion around themes explored in his recent series “Designed in Chicago, Made in China,” in which the Chicago Tribune architecture critic assessed the effects of that country’s rapid development on urbanism and design. “It’s often said that architecture is the inescapable art,” Kamin said to lead off the talk. “If that’s true then China’s urbanization is the inescapable story.” Joining Kamin were Jonathan D. Solomon, associate dean at the School of Architecture at Syracuse University; Thomas Hussey of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will; and Silas Chiow, SOM’s China director. The event was part of the Tribune's "Press Pass" series. If you haven’t read Kamin's series, you should. It examined contemporary Chinese cities and some U.S. designers thereof, giving special attention to trends in three categories: work, live, and play. Photographer John J. Kim illustrated with visuals. “In regards to street life and public space,” said SOM’s Hussey, “there can be a lack of an attitude towards it.” Long Chinese “megablocks” in Shanghai’s soaring Pudong district facilitate an urbanism not on the street, which few Americans would find walkable, but it has given rise to a kind of vertical urbanism within mixed-use towers and urban malls. Hussey pointed to SOM’s plan for a new financial district in the port area of Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city, which seeks to restore the street life present in Chinese cities before rapid modern development. And while Chinese cities are growing up, they’re also growing out. Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will reminded the audience that in the absence of property taxes, Chinese municipalities make money for new development by selling off land. That creates a ripple effect of rising property values and a pressure to sell that is devouring arable farmland. That trend’s not likely to slow down, said SOM’s Silas Chiow, since part of China’s national strategy to turn the largely manufacturing nation into a consumer country is to continue its rapid urbanization. That pressure helped produce China’s enviable mass transit systems and light rail connectivity, but also a homogeneity of design that some have called dehumanizing. Height limits, uniform standards for south-facing units and other design requirements that by themselves improve standard of living can breed sprawling, cookie-cutter developments that are easy to get lost in. Still, housing projects in China don’t carry the social stigma that they do in the U.S., commented a few panel members, in part because they’ve brought modern amenities to so many. Where China’s urbanization goes from here, however, is an open question. Images of smog-choked skylines remind some of Chicago in 1900, but the situation is not a perfect analogue. For one, the problem of carbon pollution is far more urgent now than it was then, and its sources far more potent. “Will China be the death of the urban world,” asked Kamin at the panel’s close, “or its savior?”
As the economy continues to roll we’re again awash in shortlists and competition wins. The Santa Monica City Services Building has a shortlist that includes SOM and Frederick Fisher. Teams shortlisted for the Herald Examiner Building include Christof Jantzen and Brenda Levin. LA’s Wildwood School shortlist includes Gensler, Koning Eizenberg, and one unknown team. The UC San Diego Biological Building has gone to CO Architects (recent winners of the AIACC Firm of the Year award). EHDD has won the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, and Harley Ellis Devereaux has won the Long Beach Belmont Plaza Pool.
Norman Foster has broken ground on a skinny residential tower in Midtown Manhattan. Situated adjacent to the 1958 Seagram Building on the site of a former YWCA, Foster + Partners' 61-story white luxury tower at 610 Lexington Avenue will dwarf Mies van der Rohe's 38-story bronze-clad landmark. "It’s not simply about our new building, but about the composition it creates together with one of the 20th century’s greatest," said Foster + Partners' Chris Connell in a statement. "In contrast to Seagram’s dark bronze, our tower will have a pure white, undulating skin. Its proportions are almost impossibly slim and the views will be just incredible."
With the real estate market drifting through a relative recovery, one prominent Chicago developer seems to be saying, "Come back in, the water's fine." The team behind Chicago’s Aqua Tower is gearing up for another high-rise nearby. Chicago-based Magellan Development Group hired Studio Gang Architects for another tower in the 28-acre master-planned neighborhood of Lakeshore East. Gang’s 82-story Aqua Tower, 225 North Columbus Drive, opened in 2009 to international acclaim. Its organically rippled balconies suggest the movement of wind across water. The undulating balconies are functional, too, providing sun shading and eliminating the need for a tuned mass damper. Design details for the new tower are forthcoming, but the developers said it could work on either of two sites in the Lakeshore East area. Five years after the mixed-use tower opened, Aqua saw its last unit sold February 21. Dennis Rodkin reported the 3,200-square-foot town home at the building's base sold for $1.7 million. Aqua’s 262 condominiums, 474 apartments, nine town homes and 334-room hotel are a landmark for the Lakeshore East neighborhood, which is now home to more than 5,000 residents. Development there has taken off since Millennium Park’s 2004 completion. Magellan’s master-planned community include a Dubai-based private school's first U.S. location, a six-acre park, and towers from the likes of SOM, DeStefano + Partners, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, and Steinberg Architects.
Seven tons of glass and steel clad a structural stainless frame on the Western Hemisphere’s tallest building.Brooklyn-based metal fabrication company Kammetal and DCM Erectors of New Jersey were selected to fabricate and install the crowning beacon atop the spire on 1 World Trade Center. The fabrication team executed SOM’s design for a dynamic and complex adornment to one of the country’s most anticipated buildings, along with the help of engineers at Buro Happold to ensure safety at 1,776 feet. To craft a 15-ton, 50-foot beacon that accounted for thermal expansion and movement, Kammetal modeled and drew their designs in SolidWorks. The company’s team laser cut 48 triangular 316 stainless steel panels with ¼-inch thickness in a nondirectional finish to clad DCM’s square tubular steel frame. “Before we started the project, we had the structural frame 3D scanned to generate a point cloud,” explained Sam Kusack, president at Kammetal. “Because the structure was so dynamic—it contains zero right angles or reference points—we had to verify the conditions.” Once the angles were defined, multiple processes were employed to achieve the gentle curves of the cone. In order to ensure even bumping, or bending on a press break, the fabricators laser-scribed lines at every 1/8-inch along the panels’ interior. And to securely fasten each panel to the complex angles of the frame, Kammetal also devised a proprietary clip system that affixes each panel without obstruction. Clips that fell along certain angles could not be bent safely and had to be welded into place. To install tempered and laminated heat-soaked glass panels from Oldcastle, Kusack designed a proprietary vacuum panel lifting mechanism to adjust the panels without affecting the edges. “There’s a gap of just 3/8-inches, so it was the only way to handle the panels,” he told AN. The arm required a unique radius and capacity for strength to pick up each panel in a balanced manner and evenly align the gaps. Custom gaskets fabricated in London seal the glass from the elements. Kammetal also realized SOM’s original design for a rainscreen, which serves as a ventilation component. The beacon houses various mechanicals, including FAA lighting, so slots were laser cut to allow for air-cooling. To install the beacon, DCM Erectors fabricated a series of frames, supports, platforms, and transportation devices to safely place the beacon on top of the spire. “The owner of DCM invented a lot of gear and technology to realize this installation,” Kusack marveled. For example, a holding location was constructed at 1,700 feet to assemble the final interior and exterior components that all had to be raised an additional 70 feet so the apex could be lowered into place.
Move over, Willis Tower. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) issued its official ruling Tuesday: New York’s One World Trade Center unseats the Chicago skyscraper as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The new tower’s symbolic height of 1,776 feet was called into question when a design change suggested it might achieve that elevation only through the addition of a removable broadcast antenna. CTBUH counts only structural elements that are considered an integral part of the building’s aesthetic. It was designers Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s assertion that 1 World Trade Center’s communications equipment represented a permanent architectural feature that persuaded CTBUH to affirm its height. The bottom point of the building was also in dispute. Without antennae, 1 World Trade Center is 1,368 feet tall — the height of the original World Trade Center tower destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Chicago’s Willis Tower (also an SOM building), still commonly referred to as the Sears Tower, stands 1,451 feet tall — 1,729 feet tall with antennas. It was the tallest building in the world until 1996, when the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, won CTBUH’s recognition.
Out of a crop of 26, ten teams have been invited to present their technical proposals for the renovation of the Mies van der Rohe–designed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. District officials are hoping to transform the landmark 1972 building, Mies’ last built work and his only in D.C., into a state-of-the-art central library fit for the nation’s capital. The finalists are Cunningham Quil Architects and 1100 Architects, Ennead Architects and Marshall Moya Architects, Leo A. Daly and Richard Bauer, Martinez and Johnson Architects and Mecanoo Architects, OMA and Quinn Evans Architects, Patkua Architects and Ayer Saint Gross, REX and Davis Carter Scott Architects, Shalom Baranes and Davis Brody Bond, Skidmorw Owings & Merill, and Studios Architecture and The Freelon Group. With the library’s plumbing, HVAC and elevator systems in need of replacement, asbestos present throughout the building, and annual maintenance costs soaring to $5 million, the aging athenaeum demands some serious work. Library officials have given their chosen architects a few different options, from a simple update of the building’s ailing systems, to construction of two additional floors or a complete gutting the interior. Either way, the transformation is scheduled to wrap up by 2018.
Architecture and Engineering giant AECOM has taken a big step to bolster its architecture offerings with the appointment of Ross Wimer, former partner and design director at SOM Chicago, as the leader of its architecture practice in the Americas. Wimer was known for fighting for design at SOM, and he plans to do the same thing at AECOM, where architecture can be overshadowed by much larger, and more profitable work. "I think if you guide the whole firm toward design excellence that gets you better opportunities for design everywhere," said Wimer, who wants to bring a design focus not just to buildings but to transportation projects and other realms where design isn't always the first priority. He also wants to bring his expertise in designing tall buildings to a firm where the focus has been more horizontal. AECOM has 50 offices in the Americas, and the task of getting them all on the same page is another challenge that drew Wimer to the job, he told AN. "The goal now is to let everyone feel like they’re connected, rather than being a series of different silos that work independently," said Wimer, adding, a lot of offices are working in a collaborative way. The challenge is to get that to work even better than it is now." Of course Wimer is also excited to take advantage of "the scale of the operation and the breadth of the reach at the firm." AECOM is not just the world's largest architecture firm, but its also the world's largest engineering design firm, according to Engineering News Record. Meanwhile the competition between AECOM and SOM seems to be heating up. Before Wimer's move from SOM a number of AECOM partners bolted to start SOM's new office in Los Angeles.
In an environment of escalating demands and expectations for high-performance building envelopes, the need for innovative responses from AEC professionals is ever increasing. But as new building materials, fabrication techniques, and design technologies ceaselessly emerge into the marketplace, the architectural possibilities become dizzying. At Facades+ PERFORMANCE, the nation's premiere conference for high-performance facades, we strive to keep you up to date with the latest strategies and tools that are revolutionizing the built environment. Join us for two days of cutting edge workshops, panels, and symposia presented by the industry’s leading innovators, and become part of the movement that is transforming the built environment. Be there as Mic Patterson of Enclos is joined by Keith Boswell and Anwar Hakim of SOM to discuss the process of innovation and the application of emerging building technologies in their afternoon dialog-workshop, “Innovation and The Building Skin.” Space is limited, so reserve your seat today to take part in this and other exciting programs at AN and Enclos’ Facades+ PERFORMANCE, coming to Chicago, October 24th-25th! "Innovation is no accident," said Patterson in a statement, "it is a creative act requiring discipline, deliberation, and strategic planning; the key is learning to implement and manage the process of innovation." With decades' worth of experience in the study and promotion of the design, fabrication and instillation of advanced facade technologies and structural glass facades, Patterson has dedicated his career to realizing the future of the building skin. After founding ASI Advanced Structures in 1991 and pioneering the use advanced facade technologies in the US, Patterson joined up with Enclos in 2007 when they acquired ASI. He has since worked to establish the Advanced Technology Studio of Enclos in Los Angeles, a think-tank tasked with developing innovative technical and structural solutions to match the ever expanding geometric complexity and performative demands placed upon today's most dynamic facades. "Today's building programs involve unprecedented demands on the building skin, demands that are driving step-change in facade systems and technology. Innovation is the necessary industry response to these drivers of change. When I consider the current crop of projects we are involved with I am struck by how different they are from the work we were doing five, or even three years ago. Recognizing these differences highlights the trends that are shaping the future of our industry." Join Mic Patterson has he discusses his experience delivering elegant, economic, high-performance facades amidst the revolution of formal complexity and material diversity that is transforming the AEC industries, and learn the tools to necessary to compete on the crest of innovation. Register today to take part in this and other exciting workshops, panels, and symposia, offered only at Facades+ PERFORMANCE!
You asked, and we extended the Early Bird Special Registration pricing for the Chicago edition of the Facades+ PERFORMANCE conference an extra five days! But act fast, as the discount ends today at midnight for good. Discover the latest high performance building technologies that are revolutionizing the next generation of facades at Facades+ PERFORMANCE! Join AN and Enclos as we present the latest installment of our groundbreaking conference series October 24th-25th at the Mies van der Rohe designed Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago. Be there as leading innovators from across the AEC industries gather to share the cutting-edge strategies and technologies that are redefining performance. Expand your career with our exciting series of symposia, panels, and workshops, and work side-by-side with the industry’s leading professionals. Register before midnight tonight to catch our Early Bird special and save on this incredible opportunity. Space is limited, so act fast! Join our Materials Panel on day one of the conference to learn how to apply the hottest breakthrough materials technologies to your next project. For a preview of the discussion to come, check out this exciting white paper provided by Facades Plus panelist and VP of Sage Glass, Dr. Helen Sanders, in which she explains the cutting-edge technologies and sustainable applications of dynamic electrochromatic glazing. With representatives from SOM, GKD Metal Fabrics, and YKK-AP, this panel is not to be missed. Head over to the full Facades+ PERFORMANCE site to view our highly anticipated roster of presenters and explore the thrilling schedule of workshops, panels and symposia. See you in Chicago!