Posts tagged with "SOM":

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SOM Foundation announces annual travel fellowship winners

The SOM Foundation has announced the 2016 SOM Foundation Fellowships. Since 1981, the foundation has awarded over 200 graduating undergraduate and graduate students of architecture, design, urban design, and structural engineering with money to fund travel and research in the year after graduation. This year’s winners include MIT M.Arch graduate Jongwan Kwon, Columbia University M.Arch graduate Lindsey Wikstrom, and MIT M.S. in Building Technology graduate Nathan Collin Brown. The SOM Foundation also awarded three $5,000 SOM China Prizes to recent graduates in China. The awardees are chosen by independent juries composed of multi-disciplinary professionals and SOM Foundation officers. The mission of the awards is to “nurture future leaders in design by giving them the opportunity to broaden their cultural and aesthetic horizons through travel outside of their countries.” The top award, the SOM Prize, was awarded to Jongwan Kwon for his proposed research topic, “After Efficiency: Logistics Infrastructure from a Regional Perspective.” With the awarded $50,000, Kwon will travel through international ports, airports, canals, and tunnels to study the impact infrastructure projects have on their regional environment. Kwon will interview noted scholars and practitioners throughout his travels to better understand the subject. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Master of Architecture degree and a Certificate in Urban Design, Kwon was appointed as a Teaching Fellow at the school. Kwon has worked at Kengo Kuma & Associates and Morphosis Architects. The $20,000 SOM Travel Fellowship was awarded to Lindsey Wikstrom, a recent graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning (GSAPP). Wikstrom’s research topic “An Immersive Catalogue of Housing Systems,” will focus on producing a catalogue exploring the how living environments are produced through the “convergence of markets, demand, and social vitality.” The catalogue will be a “comprehensive visual report of the systems, occupants, and typologies.” The SOM Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship was awarded to Nathan Collin Brown. The Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship “aims to foster an appreciation of the aesthetic potential in the structural design of buildings and bridges.” Browns proposal, “Integrating Secondary Goals into Structural Design,” will take him to North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. The SOM Foundation was established in 1979. The fellowships were set up in order to provide support outside of the traditional academic setting. Awardees are expected to use the money to travel internationally to conduct research and “broaden their cultural and aesthetic horizons.”
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Students build glowing installation in West Side Chicago park

Students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) have designed and built a temporary installation in Chicago’s Homan Square Park. The installation, entitled bLUMEN, is the result of a summer course taught by architectural light artists Luftwerk and Chicago-based MAS Studio. The course was organized by the SAIC Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO) and the Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration. bLUMEN takes its name from the German word for flower, blume, and the latin word for light, lumen. The installation is comprised of six 10-foot tall hexagonal steel canopies. The canopy supports fifteen interconnected horticulture LED grow lights that help grow a handful of plants and vegetables. Situated on an underutilized site, bLUMEN was envisioned as a catalyst for community activity and social interaction. The West Side community of Homan Square is one of Chicago’s neighborhoods that suffers from a lack of access to healthy and fresh food. bLUMEN spotlights this issue, while providing a space for existing or new programs to gather, by day or night. The 10 students involved with the project worked with engineers from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and metal fabricators, Active Alloys.
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SOM proposes new use for vacant Bertrand Goldberg building

Landmarks Illinois, working with, the City of Elgin, Illinois, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) have released an extensive study into the reuse of the Elgin Laundry Building. The long span accordion-shaped structure was designed by Bertrand Goldberg and sits the former campus of the Elgin Mental Health Hospital. Currently vacant, the study explores how the space could be reused as a multipurpose recreational facility. Landmarks Illinois listed the 1967 structure on its 2009-09 Chicagoland Watchlist, a list of endangered historic building in the Chicago area. In the past, Goldberg’s status as one of Chicago’s Modernist masters has not been enough save his buildings from the wrecking ball. SOM’s reuse plans leverage the building’s 110-foot by 240-foot column-free interior. The hope is to provide a space that can be programmed for maximum flexibility, without compromising the original design. If realized, the Laundry Building would become an extension of Elgin’s existing central relaxation complex. The proposal includes the possibility of 350 spectator bleachers, locker rooms, administrative offices, refurbished glass end walls, and a floor that could be used for basketball, indoor soccer, and other team sports. Over the years the building has suffered some cosmetic wear, but it is still structurally sound. SOM has also included plans for making the building more sustainable. Possible power generation from photovoltaic cells and rainwater harvesting are part of the study, as well as improved daylighting and natural ventilation. This initial proposal is still in the speculative stage, but if pursued, the city and designers, hope to engage the public in realizing the project. The full study can be found here.
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Top global firms battle for $1.1 billion Sydney high-rise project

A plethora of big names are gunning for a $1.1 billion tower in Sydney, Australia. From the U.S., HOK, SOM, and KPF are vying for the commission. A stellar list of firms in their own right, British firms Foster + Partners and David Chipperfield Architects are also in running, alongside Australia’s BVN and Hassell. The lucrative project is an office skyscraper backed by developer Lendlease and located on 182 George Street. Nestled within Sydney's, Circular Quay—a prime piece of real estate—the office, according to the Architect's Journal, would climb to 813 feet. Tenants look set to gain access to vistas over the waterfront that look onto the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge and Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House. If built, the tower would be the tallest in the country. A masterplan is also said to be accompanying the scheme. On their website, Lendlease said that the scheme will "promote connectivity from George Street to Pitt Street, through to Circular Quay and maximise integration with transport infrastructure." In the statement, the developer goes on to say:
The project will deliver new quality commercial premises and new urban places in an environmentally sustainable way. A vibrant public place will be created with new urban amenity, including a public bike hub and public plazas with dining options, shopping, entertainment and leisure, delivering a new destination in Circular Quay for residents, visitors and workers. This will help to affirm Sydney's position as a globally relevant, intelligent, and innovative metropolis. It is also in alignment with the City of Sydney's vision to create activated areas and new public spaces.
The development is one of many touted/in the works for the area. Danish studio 3XN Architects is currently designing Quay Quarter Tower—a 49-storey office tower in the area of which they beat Japanese firm SANAA and MVRDV for the right to design. Meanwhile, the Sydney Opera House is undergoing a massive renovation courtesy of Australian firm ARM. Unlike his compatriots, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma won the commission for two high-rise residential towers earlier on this year. That project is due to cost $742 million and will offer two towers rising to 57 and 28 storeys, set for completion in 2018.
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SOM delivers a bold but fitting addition to the United States Air Force Academy

To approach an institution and campus like the United States Air Force Academy is to be awash in metaphors made concrete. The original campus by Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) was conceived as a theater of discipline in the rocky mesas above Colorado Springs. There, using a seven-foot grid module inspired by tatami mats, Netsch produced a thickened, rectilinear landscape punctuated by the virtuosic 1963 Cadet Chapel. Sited across the honor court, and just offset from the view corridor Netsch sought to maintain between the chapel and Creation Rock to the north, is the 105-foot glass and steel skylight of Polaris Hall, the new home of the Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD) designed by SOM.

Aligned toward the star for which the building is named, the protruding skylight works as a metaphorical moral compass, bridging that distant point with an oculus that pierces the ceiling of a maple-lined conference space that serves as the honor boardroom at the core of the building. Inside, seated beneath the room’s sole source of natural light, a cadet accused of violating the Academy’s honor code has the opportunity to present his or her case before peers and an administrative panel. It’s an intimidating spot to be sure, and the architecture effectively choreographs the personal and professional reckoning involved in the attainment of a rarefied quality such as character. The honor code’s unequivocal directive to not lie, steal, cheat, nor tolerate anyone among the ranks who does, is a revered source of solidarity that binds each successive wing of cadets to those of years past. Yet, after a number of ugly scandals shook the Academy and pitted the honor code against its de facto code of silence, officials decided that the moral compass of its institutional culture was in need of recalibration.

While the CCLD dates back to 1993, plans for its first permanent home were not initiated until 2007 when a competition was held among three SOM offices. Roger Duffy and his team from New York came out on top. They, along with campus architect Duane Boyle, were hesitant to touch the landmarked site; however, the architects needed to make an unambiguous statement. What emerged is an artful study in conflict avoidance, restraint, and strategic power projection. In shaping what is arguably the most controversial component of the center, the architects carefully surveyed the proposed skylight’s relation to the chapel from many key vantage points—so as not to usurp the chapel’s prominence. Further, the designers eschewed the structural muscularity of the chapel in favor of a finely-finished, tapering, triangular truss system of architecturally exposed structural steel confined within a crisp glass enclosure that is fritted across much of its base to keep temperatures down in the forum below.


The interplay of continuity and break unfolds throughout the building’s details. For example, custom handrails are molded into the wood panels in the forum, while blue Murano tile walls are assembled with almost archaeological precision to match those of the original academic buildings. The building itself plugs into the existing campus grid both in plan and section with an array of entrance points from two datums, as well as a hierarchical arrangement of spaces centered on a peninsula in a sunken courtyard that houses the forum and honor boardroom. Modeled in part after the atrium of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the forum is a space both for formal presentations and informal meetings. Flanking it are two banks of glazed breakout rooms loaded with networking technology to facilitate collaborative work on case studies and problem-solving exercises in “applied ethics,” at times under the real-time digital supervision of observers in a media hub. Such networking capacity would not be out of place in a lab setting or business school, but to see it here in service of a humanist program suggests a growing convergence of disciplines under the aegis of performance—an ethos, however, not always compatible with character.

While Netsch’s chapel compels belief through sheer thrust—not unlike the F-4D Phantom that now sits at one corner of the Spirit Hill lawn—the objective for the CCLD is at once more modest, but also more difficult: Character and leadership are qualities both achieved and tested against increasingly novel and intricate situations in combat, cyber security, and disaster relief, where faith alone is not actionable. Its overture of transparency is a clear gesture, but far from a hollow one in an ongoing process that aims to compensate for long-standing blind spots.

With Polaris Hall, the Academy has gained a building that shares more with the coolly refined performance of the F-22 that may one day grace the Terrazzo or even with the remote reach of a Predator drone than with the blunt instrumentality of the Phantom. One can argue that such sophistication represents only an updated veneer rather than a shift in substance, yet the building suggests that qualities of surface and depth cannot be decoupled without posing serious risks. The mission may evolve, but it also stays the same. Here, SOM delivered an appropriate vehicle for a center tasked, in the ideal, with equipping cadets with the judgement to know how best to wield a level of power that few have ever possessed, and to recognize when to stand down.

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Community Board 1 waits to vote on controversial plaza modifications

A modernist plaza in lower Manhattan is glass cube–free, for now. At their monthly meeting last night, Community Board 1 (CB1) heard from members of the public about changes to 28 Liberty, SOM's modernist office building and plaza. The owner and developer, Fosun, has commissioned SOM to add three glass pavilions to increase access to the plaza's below-ground retail. Although the scheme received Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approval in August of last year, the plans cannot proceed unless Fosun gets approval to modify a restriction in the deed that forbids structures higher than six feet from rising on the plaza's surface. Prior to LPC approval, the community board approved SOM's design in March 2015, minus one pavilion at Cedar Street which members thought obstructed the view across the plaza. Among the residents and architects who came to speak on 28 Liberty last night were preservation advocates and museum professionals concerned about Fosun's plans. Marissa Marvelli, a historic preservation specialist at BKSK and a Docomomo New York/Tri-State board member, stated that the modern architecture preservation organization "[implored] the Community Board to retain the original public-spirited deed restrictions and preserve the generous space and non-commercial character of the plaza, as intended by the original owner and architect." Like the CB1 board, Docomomo particularly opposes the planned stair enclosure at Cedar Street, pictured above. Although CB1's board does not recommend the Cedar Street plaza to be built, it still could rise, as the community board's voice is purely advisory. "The Cedar Street structure is the most egregious of them all," said Kyle Johnson, Marvelli's fellow board member and architect at Snøhetta. To him, the pedestrian continuity between four public plazas—28 Liberty, 140 Broadway, Zuccotti Park, and the WTC memorial plaza—is intrinsic to the overall experience of the plaza in question, and the pavilion at Cedar Street would disrupt this relationship. Johnson questioned the overall purpose of the pavilions, speculating that their purpose is mainly to advertise the retail beneath. "The access to the proposed retail is already there—how many doorways do you need?" Plans show there will be access to below-grade space from Pine and William Streets (and through the building itself). Other speakers included Jenny Dixon, director of the Noguchi Museum, who cited the importance of the Jean Dubuffet sculpture and the Noguchi's dialogue with the plaza. She critiqued the pavilion's effect on the experience of the work, saying, "These are really important pieces of public art that are part of the history of Lower Manhattan. The space itself, the placement of work, and the relationship to the environment is the totality that Noguchi considered, not an isolated object on the plaza in relation to the building." Noting that the museum's board of trustees encourages CB1 reject the modification, she addressed the attending board members: "People don't come to New York just to make money. People come here to experience the arts." One leader on the board was influenced by the developer- and board-led site visits. Chair Anthony Notaro said that they added to his understanding of the design and the developer's desire for a modification. For him, the design and the deed are definitely related, but the deed restriction is something the board should weigh in on. He advocated for a deeper understanding of how modifying the deed restriction could impact the use and appearance of the plaza in the future. Notaro was clear to connect the conversation at the meeting to Rivington House, noting that if that "debacle" hadn't occurred, there would probably be little to no debate around 28 Liberty. "We [the board] need to do more work on understanding this," he said. "I want the developer to come back with more drawings, more schematics, and [speak] to whether or not they can do this in a different way." In light of the Rivington House deal, reforms to the deed modification process are being worked out by the city, with some elected officials favoring a process that would subject deed modifications to a ULURP. The legislation is being reviewed by the City Council's Committee on Governmental Operations tomorrow morning. In light of the chair and the public's comments, the board voted overwhelmingly to re-table a tabled resolution from July on the modification of the deed restriction for 28 Liberty, at least until October.
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Developer wants to put glass cubes on landmarked SOM plaza

An ongoing fight over a storied Manhattan landmark proves that indeed, size does matter. Fosun International, the Shanghai-based owner of lower Manhattan's 28 Liberty Street (formerly One Chase Manhattan Plaza), has commissioned SOM to revamp their own classic International Style building and 2.5-acre plaza design. Among its planned changes to the site, Fosun received Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approval to build three glass cubes on the landmarked plaza that will serve as entrances to below-ground retail. Although the commission approved the scheme, implementing changes at 28 Liberty requires an additional, and contentious, next step.
Fosun is seeking a modification of 28 Liberty's deed restriction that would allow the cubes to rise 11 to 17 feet above the highest points of the plaza, heights that far exceed the deed restriction's stipulation that structures rise no more than six feet above the highest point on the plaza. Both the International Style building and plaza were designated a New York City Landmark in 2009. SOM is updating the tower's office space and plaza and reintroducing original details lost in prior renovations while transforming approximately 290,000 square feet (four floors) of basement space into retail. (AN first covered the design proposal, and ensuing controversy, in July.) Renovations will add accessible entrances and restore tree wells on the south plaza. Along Pine Street, the project will conserve on-site art, remove air intakes, and perhaps most crucially to the design, reinstate the parapet that encircles the space, particularly a corner at Liberty and Nassau Streets that renovations have compromised over time. The developers maintain that the glass cubes, or pavilions, are a key part of the renovations. Fosun argues that the three pavilions will improve handicap accessibility to the stepped plaza as well as protect shoppers entering and exiting the retail spaces from inclement weather. The pavilions, along with glass storefronts along Liberty and Williams Streets, are intended to activate street frontage and encourage more fluidity between indoor and outdoor, below-grade and street-level spaces of the plaza, sidewalk, and tower.
Although some later modifications imitate original conditions, all of the plaza's elements are non-original aside from the Isamu Noguchi sunken garden. (The black-and-white Jean Dubuffet sculpture, installed 1971, was not included in the landmark designation.) The space is not a privately-owned public space (POPS), but remains open to the public nonetheless.
Some Community Board 1 (CB1) members say the design and the deed restriction, although technically unrelated, cannot be considered independently from each other. They point to the scale of the pavilions as proof: According to plans filed with the Department of Buildings, the three proposed pavilions, pictured in plan above, are a 17-foot-tall, 46-foot-long, 1,473-square-foot cube at the corner of Nassau and Liberty Streets; another 16-foot-tall, 43-foot-long, 1,132-square-foot cube facing Pine Street; and a third 11-foot-tall, 18-foot-long, and 418-square-foot at Cedar Street (which a CB1 joint committee ultimately rejected at a July 2016 meeting). A site tour with the architects scheduled September 23 was canceled because key stakeholders from Fosun and SOM were not able to attend. Instead, CB1 board members led a peer-to-peer tour, showing their colleagues the scale of the pavilions and their placement on the plaza.
The cubes’ size is not the only point of contention. Some residents think the architects' renderings suggest the cubes are being rendered too transparently (a common offense in renderings), and that the built structures will impede sightlines on the plaza, especially to the Dubuffet and Noguchi pieces. "Depending on light angles and angles, a glass cube can be quite reflective. At most angles, glass cubes are pretty transparent, but they are not like a window, they're totally going to interrupt the view,” said Michael Ludvik, glass engineer and founding principal of M. Ludvik Engineering. SOM’s glass pavilions have been compared to the Apple Cube, which is not entirely accurate, Ludvik said. The Apple Cube is not made of anti-reflective glass, so when viewed from an angle, it can look almost opaque. To make the proposed pavilions as transparent as possible, he suggested using the thinnest and clearest glass available, along with appropriate fins to minimize impact on clarity. SOM could not be reached for comment on the glass choice, but a spokesperson for the developer explained that they are not far enough along in the process to have made a materials choice. For one CB1 board member, design and deed are unequivocally separate. “The current owners are not the omnivorous developer creatures we’d expect,” said Bruce Ehrmann, co-chair of CB1’s Landmarks Committee. “They are trying to steward the plaza. They followed our original CB1 resolution, and they followed the instructions from the LPC. This issue is about a six-foot height cap,” not the design, Ehrmann said. An architecture enthusiast, Ehrmann maintained that "the first proposal changed the whole nature of the Modernist platform. It’s important to the plaza that the parapet is restored."
Alice Blank, an architect and resident who also serves on CB1's board, asks why the design can't be done differently, without the large pavilions that trigger the deed restriction modification: "I need to know, have all alternatives been considered before pavilions were added on top of the plaza? I need to know why the existing street level entrances to the underground cannot be adapted." She noted that the pavilions didn't appear in earlier iterations of the design, pointing to SOM’s May 2015 LPC presentation that showed capped entrances to the retail space and only one pavilion, a stair enclosure at Cedar Street, pictured above. While she doesn't endorse the first design per se, she sees it as an example of how alternatives could be crafted to improve access without adding glass cubes. At the August 2015 meeting, commissioners raised questions about the height and transparency of the cubes before granting approval. One LPC commissioner, noting that the cubes were two and three times taller than an average human, asked what was driving the height of the cubes. "The sidewalk is incredibly varied around the site,” said Roger Duffy, design partner at SOM. He explained to the commission that the taller-than-human height is required to prevent mischief and liability: "If [a person] climbed on top of the parapet, they couldn't climb on top of the pavilion," Duffy said. The community board, though, didn’t approve the same plans that the LPC did. The LPC's August decision came after the community board's review of SOM and Fosun's original plans. "We are being asked to modify a deed on a proposal the full Board never saw or approved," said Blank. In July, a spokesperson for the developer issued a statement on the deed restriction modification to assuage concerns about the modification: "CB1 is voting on a MINOR MODIFICATION which would ONLY PERMIT THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE GLASS PAVILLIONS [sic] AS APPROVED BY THE LANDMARKS AND PRESERVATION COMMISSION [sic], AND NO OTHER CHANGES.  THERE IS NO CREATION OF ADDITIONAL RETAIL SPACE, AND NO CHANGE OF USE." Blank questioned the impact of the changes and the legacy they could set. “Development is important, but [a] violation of commitments to preserve open space for the public in perpetuity ought to be reviewed with extraordinary care in light of the compromise of the public interest. What would be next—Seagrams, Lever House?” In a statement, the preservation advocacy group Historic Districts Council (HDC) echoed Blank's question in their indictment of the proposed deed restriction modification:
“The sheer existence of such a restriction reveals the great foresight and care which went into the planning of this architecture to prevent it from being marred from future, insensitive fads, most relevantly the corporate ‘Apple Cube.’ More broadly, the proliferation of recent deed changes which disadvantage the public to serve private entities is deplorable. Any changes should be weighed in the context of the long term: Is it wise to permanently alter an individual landmark for the current owner? Do these proposed spaces hold any longitudinal, classical value?"
Both the HDC's and Blank’s concerns mirror public outcry over the recent Rivington House scandal, in which the city lifted a deed restriction that mandated the property be managed as a healthcare nonprofit, a move that allowed the owner to profit handsomely from the sale of the property. In response, Mayor de Blasio has announced a series of reforms to the deed modification process that could impact the dealings at 28 Liberty in the near future. Faulting "a process that has failed to protect and preserve significant community assets, like Rivington House," Councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district includes 28 Liberty, along with speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilmember Ben Kallos, and Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, favor a process that would make deed restriction changes subject to a ULURP. Although Fosun is not seeking to lift the deed restrictions, it has paid James Capalino, the same lobbyist involved in the Rivington House deal, $120,000 since January 2015 to push the city's Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) for deed modifications at 28 Liberty, DNAinfo reports. Judgment day for the plaza is near. The board is voting tomorrow on the modification of the deed restriction it tabled in July, thus confirming the fate of the design and the deed restriction. Although the board's decision is purely advisory, a vote to modify could give Fosun leverage in future discussions with DCAS to modify the deed restriction.
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Port Authority may sell Freedom Tower

It's hard to think of a New York City building more laden with symbolism than the Freedom Tower, also known as One World Trade Center: The 1,776-foot-tall is a triumphant symbol of life after death, a toast to the city's post-9/11 resilience. For the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, though, the $3.8 billion building is a financial ball-and-chain. Last year, the Port Authority's revenue on the 3-million-square-foot, SOM-designed Freedom Tower was $13 million, a measly 0.35 percent return on investment, according to the Citizens Budget Commission. The Port Authority wants to sell the Freedom Tower—which could be worth as much as $5 billion—to the highest bidder within 2017. If it goes for that price, the tower will be the most expensive office building ever sold in the U.S., but observers told Crain's that the sale will almost certainly be fraught with complications. In a demonstration of good faith—or xenophobia—the families of 9/11 victims, the agency's own police force, and even the federal government, which maintains U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices in the building, would probably oppose a sale to, say, a Middle Eastern buyer. Because of its symbolism and location, the building is still a terrorist target. One World Trade Center's $121 million annual operating budget includes security, though the Port Authority doesn't make its security spending figures public. A buyer may cut those costs to afford the hefty mortgage, although there are few buyers flush enough to even consider buildings like One World Trade. (Since 2008, there have been only 12 buildings sold for more than $1 billion in New York.) TIAA, CalPERS, and large local real estate firms like Related, Silverstein Properties, and Brookfield Properties are expected to bid on the property, by themselves or in partnership with a foreign entity. Bidders, however, would compete with the Durst Organization, which bought a $100 million stake in the tower six years ago. The building is expected to be fully leased in 2019, at which point Durst would take an ownership stake in the tower. That means Durst gets to be the first to match any bid and would have veto power over any deal before its ownership is fully vested. If there was a buyer within the next two years, Durst would need to be bought out for the transaction to continue. In 2014, the Port Authority declared that it would sell off its real estate holdings to refocus on transportation, its original mission. Given the roadblocks to a sale, though, some officials are urging the agency to wait until the tower is fully leased, which would inject revenue and lead to a higher valuation (it's 70 percent full now). Alternatively, officials say the Port Authority could offload less fraught assets, like Brooklyn's Red Hook container terminal, first.
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Travel through 80 years of modern architecture with SOM’s Tumblr

In 1936 two architects—Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings, both from Indiana—set up a firm in Chicago, a city that would prove a fertile ground for their work. Three years on, John O. Merrill joined the firm, prompting a name change to Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). Now you can travel through all those 80 years of SOM's practice with their Tumblr blog. Within the archive, visitors can find a plethora of modernist architecture from SOM's early years. The trio was even dubbed "the three blind Mies" by Frank Lloyd Wright due to their emulation of the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s principles. The images showcased here are only a few of SOM's buildings: The Hirshhorn Museum (1974) from Washington D.C.; Houston's First City National Bank (1961); The Netsch Campus (1968) in Chicago; and the Wells College Library in Aurora, NY are among a host of designs ranging in scale and location. Much more, including the firm's most recent projects, can be found here.
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Watch SOM test its latest in timber tower technology

Working with Oregon State University (OSU), Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has been busy testing its design for a timber tower. The time-lapse video below shows a section of the wood tower being submitted to 82,000 pounds of pressure. SOM has been working on the Timber Tower Research Project, funded by the Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) since 2013. The goal of the project is to develop safe, sustainable building technologies using mass-timber. Using timber may reduce a building’s embedded carbon footprint by as much as 60% to 70% compared to benchmark concrete building. The Timber Tower Research Project has developed a structural system called the Concrete Jointed Timber Frame that employs mass-timber elements with reinforced concrete connections. Since 2014, SOM and OSU have developed a comprehensive physical testing program, which recently completed a full-scale test to prove the system’s ability to satisfy code requirements. The 36-foot by 8-foot specimen is comprised of a Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) deck topped with a thin layer of reinforced concrete. The concrete is used to improve structural, acoustic, and fire performance. The composite allows for long spans with a relatively thin cross-section. The 82,000 pounds tested is roughly eight times the required design load. Forty-eight sensors recorded stresses as a hydraulic actuator loaded the specimen over two hours. Timber Tower Research Project: Successful Test at Oregon State University from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP on Vimeo.
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CB1 vote to modify deed restrictions on SOM’s 28 Liberty Plaza today could pave way for SOM-led redesign

Update 7/27/16: CB1 voted yesterday to table the resolution modify the site's deed restriction to allow for more public review of the proposal. To demonstrate the proposed changes for the public, a tour of the site will be offered. The tour is provisionally scheduled for early September 2016, before CB1's Financial District Committee's follow-up meeting on the issue.
In lower Manhattan, some residents fear that SOM's take on a classic SOM design will compromise the character of one of the city's best-known International style plazas.
Manhattan Community Board 1 (CB1) is voting on a resolution tonight to remove the deed restriction on the SOM–designed 28 Liberty Plaza (formerly One Chase Manhattan Plaza) to allow for three glass cubes—entrances to basement-level retail—to be built on the landmarked site. SOM designed the 2.5-acre plaza and adjoining tower in 1964, introducing the International style to the Financial District. The firm is now leading the site's redesign by updating the tower's office space, reincorporating historic details lost in prior renovations, and converting 200,000 square feet of disused space underneath the plaza to retail. Apple Cube–like glass pavilions installed in the plaza will signal the below-grade offerings to passerbys while allowing additional points of access. Last August the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved changes to the plaza. To one community member who is still smarting from the decision to transform much of the Water Street POPS into retail space, the changes will degrade the plaza. In an email to The Architect's Newspaper, architect and member of citizen coalition Community Advocates for Public Space Alice Blank called SOM's and Fosun's (the site's owners) effort to increase access to below-grade areas "laudable" but denounced the glass pavilions:
The addition of the entry pavilions will change the integrity of the original design of this celebrated plaza; they will compromise three of the neighborhood’s important view corridors; they will act as beacons of commerce day and night and will significantly increase pedestrian foot traffic in the area. These are major changes with major consequences for the community.
Blank, who is a CB1 member but does not represent the board in her advocacy around this issue, went on to condemn the renderings as misleading. "The structures have been rendered so diaphanously as to risk leaving the misleading impression that the addition of 3 large structures on top of this classic modernist plaza, will have little visual impact or aesthetic consequence." The changes will enhance the plaza and bring key elements back to their original condition, countered SOM associate director Frank Mahan. "No one has a greater vested interest in doing right by this building than SOM. It's important to be good stewards of classic work." Mahan called the cubes in question "minimal and transparent," noting that they "will impact the existing architecture in a minimal and appropriate manner." Adaptively reusing the basement enables restorative measures like reinstating the parapet that once encircled the plaza, cleaning and restoring the Noguchi sculpture on-site, and eliminating non-original air intakes on the plaza's north side, he explained. Modifying the site's deed restriction clears the way for the proposed development. When reached for comment, Blank noted that if the deed is modified the return on investment for Fosun is high, and the public should have additional opportunities to weigh in on whether these changes offer an equitable exchange. For those wishing to weigh in tonight, CB1's meeting begins at 6PM in the DC37 - Auditorium at 125 Barclay Street.
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The ICP opens its first exhibition at a new SOM-designed center

Today, the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City opens the doors of its new home at 250 Bowery. The ICP's xpansive collection of photographic work include Zach Blas, Martine Syms, Natalie Bookchin, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, and Andy Warhol Now on display is Public, Private, Secret, an exhibition that “explores the concept of privacy in today’s society and examines how contemporary self-identity is tied to public visibility.” Internationally-based firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) designed the museum; the exhibition itself was designed by New York–based architecture firm common room and graphic designer Geoff Han. The new ICP lobby features a temporary bookstore (currently occupied by Spaces Corners), a weekly poster wall of ICP’s School and Community Education projects, and a cafe, all of which aim to create a lively “village square” environment. Ninety feet of glass frontage help connect the interior to the streetscape. The Public, Private, Secret exhibition space features a range of transparent and reflective materials and surfaces, echoing its conceptual focus on “self-identity.” Materials are exhibited on glass display boxes with aluminum frames. In an adjoining viewing area, visitors can watch additional video works from simple bleacher seating on the back wall. Throughout the museum, the ceiling and duct work are left exposed and painted white; the structural columns are similarly sparse exposed concrete. SOM renovated the building with a minimalist approach, resulting in a space that is versatile and responds to "the spontaneity of the street," as the firm says on their website. “SOM gave us a space that advances ICP’s mission to serve as a forum for dialogue about photography and visual culture, and positions us to bring our exhibitions and programs to new, diverse audiences," said ICP Executive Director Mark Lubell in a press release. Public, Private, Secret, curated by Charlotte Cotton, Pauline Vermare, and Marina Chao, will be open until January 8, 2017.