Posts tagged with "Snohetta":

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Snøhetta to restore access to Pacific Northwest’s largest waterfall

Snøhetta has released new renderings for the firm’s ambitious reimagining of the Willamette Falls near Portland, Oregon. The project aims to restore public access to the waterfalls by stringing a long, sinuous path through the formerly industrial site. (The Architect's Newspaper first covered the development when it was unveiled in 2015.) The Willamette Falls is the second-largest waterfall by volume in the United States and has been cut off from nearby downtown Oregon City for over a century. The falls are currently flanked by a collection of decrepit industrial buildings and a hydroelectric dam; some of those industrial buildings will be removed and replaced with native riparian landscapes while others will be redeveloped to accommodate new uses. The new renderings for the project depict a simply-articulated path connecting the various elements along the long, narrow, and linear site leading up to the falls. The proposed pathway—which has been designed to accommodate cyclical and historic flood levels and is seismically resilient—starts at the northern end of the site, where several old industrial buildings will be cleared away and a flour mill from the 1890s will be restored. The path here will connect to an old fuel dock that is being repurposed as a public vantage point and dock. After wrapping around the mill, the path transforms into a wide boardwalk overlooking the river that spills out onto a large public plaza framed by historic and new structures. A portion of the plaza wraps over the boardwalk to create a vantage point over the river. At the eastern end of the plaza, the elevated path picks back up, crossing over a creek in order to reach the a complex made up of more restored mill structures. Here, the mill structures—including antique boilers and other original machinery—will be preserved and opened for public use. The path splinters at the mill complex in order to provide elevated vangates and access to public terraces and groves of coniferous trees. The path ends at a broad promenade at the falls, where visitors can peer out over the dynamic landscape. Here, visitors can observe 360-degree views of the waterfalls and experience the cliffsides from pathways engineered to be supported by existing structures. The Willamette Falls proposal is scheduled to be unveiled June 3 at a public ceremony, and construction is expected to begin June 2018.
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Snøhetta will turn this old house at Harvard into ultra energy-efficient building

A green building research center at Harvard has enlisted Snøhetta to transform its headquarters into a test site for technology that may make it easier to retrofit older homes. Using its modest headquarters as a guinea pig, the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) at the GSD will retrofit its on-campus home. Designed by Snøhetta, the HouseZero project revamps the CGBC's 1924 stick-built house to run without an HVAC system, without daytime electric lighting, and produce zero carbon emissions, among other efficiencies. The project is the brainchild of Ali Malkawi, professor of architectural technology at the GSD and the center's founding director. "Before now, this level of efficiency could only be achieved in new construction," said Malkawi, in a press release. "We want to demonstrate what's possible, show how this can be replicated almost anywhere, and solve one of the world's biggest energy problems—inefficient existing buildings." In the United States, 113.6 million homes use around ten percent of the nation's energy. Although there are plenty of new buildings that are net-zero, there aren't many practitioners working to bring older buildings—especially older houses—up to that standard. For the CGBC, which was founded in 2014 to promote high-performance building techniques through design, HouseZero is a major test project. Instead of considering the house as a sealed box, Snøhetta will create an envelope that passively heats and cools itself. The HVAC system will be replaced with thermal mass, while a ground source heat pump will provide extra energy to regulate temperatures in the warmest and coldest months. Clad in white cedar shingles, HouseZero sports ash and birch interior finishes, natural clay plaster, and reclaimed brick and granite—all high-performing, locally available materials. The building components are outfitted with sensors so the structure can adjust itself for thermal comfort throughout the day while collecting data for future retrofits. A lab inside will be connected to the energy exchange system so architects and researchers can swap and test new facades and materials to further optimize the structure's performance. The project's concept design was developed in collaboration with the Center and with Snøhetta, which will act as lead architect, interior, and landscape architect. (The U.S. branch of Norwegian construction company Skanska is working on the house, as well.) Though it could probably go LEED super-platinum, HouseZero's creators aren't setting out to build for any existing certifications. According the press release, the team "wants to demonstrate an entirely new paradigm for ultra-efficiency, one that is localized and focused on curbing energy demand, with energy production secondary to that." Construction is expected to take between seven and nine months.
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Snøhetta responds to Times Square pedestrian incident

When a car plowed through the ever-busy Times Square in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday, 22 people were injured and one was killed. However, things could have been much worse. The security bollards in the Snøhetta-design pedestrian plaza held strong and stopped the driver, Richard Rojas, from killing and injuring more people. His car came to a stop on two wheels, after being wedged upward by a 3-foot-tall bollard, manufactured by Calpipe Security Bollards and installed last fall as part of the plaza redesign. In response Craig Dykers, Founding Partner at Snøhetta, released the following statement:
Times Square is one of the densest and most visited places in New York and the world. One of the key challenges of transforming this congested vehicular district into a place for people was making Times Square more comfortable and natural to walk through, while securing it against unpredictable tragedies like the one that took place in the Square yesterday. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family of the victim and we wish a healthy recovery to the injured and those affected. In our work to make permanent the pedestrian plazas in Times Square, we managed a successful collaborative process with the city and specialized consultants to be sure pedestrians would be safe in the Crossroads of the World. Our method has been to protect the plaza areas while also using design elements that don’t overwhelm the public experience. We wanted to be sure safety measures did not define the public space while also creating highly effective protective features in the most populated areas. Bollards, in connection with other integrated security features, form the basis of the security design for the plaza. These elements allow for fluid and intuitive circulation between the plazas. This was a fundamental concept of the redesign as a whole, which focused on reducing visual and physical clutter and confusion in the Square, creating a simplified surface that allows people to move comfortably and naturally through the space. Without these considerations more people would have been affected by this tragedy so we are grateful to everyone on the team for designing these preventative measures. We will continue to analyze the character of this event alongside our partners connected to this work to further minimize the impact of any future situations without interfering with the open, vibrant and unique character of Times Square.
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Snøhetta masterfully creates a new museum setting for 17,000-year-old cave art

When I tell people my daughter lives in France, their first thoughts are of Paris. When I say the south of France, they think of Cannes, Nice, and Marseilles. Actually, she lives two hours east of Bordeaux in a beautiful region known as the Dordogne. Buried amongst the stately chateaus and castles is a collection of artwork that has captured the imagination of the world—the cave paintings of Lascaux. Discovered in 1940, these prehistoric works of art were created more than 17,000 years ago in Montignac, France. At first, the caves were open to the public, but were closed in 1963 when it was discovered that humans exhaling carbon dioxide were damaging the artwork. Lascaux II, a facsimile of the original, opened in 1983, and is located 600 feet away. But, even still, human traffic was damaging the original. Subsequently, in 2012, Lascaux III was created as a traveling exhibit and it is currently touring Asia. To bring this whole fascinating story back to life, after it had been closed to the public for over 50 years, a design competition was launched in 2011 to create Lascaux IV. Its mission was to bring this world heritage site out of the darkness and back into the public’s eye, to provide access to the Dordogne region of France as an international cultural and scientific attraction, and to create a greater understanding of the history and meaning that spawned this Paleolithic cave art. The design competition attracted many of Europe’s leading firms, including Mateo Arquitectura, Auer+Weber, and Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Ultimately, in 2013, the jury selected the design team led by Snøhetta, of Oslo, Norway, working with local firm Duncan Lewis and interior-exhibition designers Casson Mann of London. Jury member Bernard Cazeau, a senator representing the Dordogne, said, “From the point of view of the scenography—which was, in our eyes, an essential factor—it’s the most successful project.” Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, one of the founding architects of Snøhetta, explained that “during the process of copying, you discover new information. It was a huge research investment.” The architects and exhibit designers learned how the ancient artists thought and acted. Those painters would draw multiple heads on a horse to simulate movement as the horse swam across a river. The building and its multiple exhibitions work beautifully as an integrated sequence of spaces. Snøhetta is recognized for its integration of landscape and architecture. The Lascaux IV Museum is masterful in this regard. The museum forms the edge of a sloping forest adjacent to a broad field. “The building is an insertion,” Thorsen explained, “a negotiation between the forest and the agriculture.” It is possible to walk from the entry plaza up a slope to the top of the building, not unlike Snøhetta’s design for the Oslo Opera House. “The building is not an abstract,” Thorsen said. It brings the museum experience to a new reality, reminding us we are all part of a 20,000-year continuum. Many people, including this writer, were skeptical about the value of a museum with copies of the cave art. I had visited the original cave paintings in the nearby French town of Rouffignac and have been trained to value original artwork. So how would this team of architects and exhibit designers create a place that could teach us new things, touch our hearts, and move our minds? With imagination, innovation, and technology, they created a whole new world worth every hour of your time and then some. I envisioned a fake cave and a gift shop, but as I approached this bold incision in the landscape, set against the forested hillside, I realized there was much more to this museum than I had imagined. The building is partially buried in the hillside near the original caves. The sequence of spaces skillfully takes the visitor from outside to inside and back outside again. There is, of course, the re-creation of the original caves; with a change in light, acoustics, and humidity, you feel like you are entering down into the cave as the artists did more than 17,000 years ago. Your eyes adjust to the dim light, and the paintings come alive. Over 50 artists and sculptors from the Perigord Facsimile Workshop labored for three years to reproduce the shape and texture of the cave, and, using the same materials as the original artists, captured the color, shape, and form of over 600 animals, 400 signs and symbols, and one human with a bird’s head. The gentle curvature of the cave walls was used to simulate the curvature of the animals’ bodies. It’s impossible not to wonder about who these Paleolithic people were and how they lived. And why did they spend the time and effort to tell us their stories? After exiting the caves, you enter a series of additional exhibition halls and theaters. Pieces of the cave are re-created and suspended from the ceiling. Digital images, projected on the paintings, explain how the artists created layers of meaning over time. Thorsen explained that “the cave has a meaning in its own right. The cave is itself an artifact.” Three mini-theaters trace the history of discovery in the caves since 1940. Then, a separate space, framed by multiple suspended digital monitors, explores how the cave paintings have influenced contemporary artists. Museums have a dual function: first, to display the art within in a visually stimulating way that allows visitors to learn, to grow, and to explore. And second, to create an architecture that engages the community and makes a design statement of its own. Snøhetta achieves both with a deft hand and a keen eye. The image of the building against the forest at dusk is a dramatic sight, expecting to draw nearly half a million visitors per year.
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Snøhetta unveils plans for world’s first ship tunnel in Norway

This article was originally published on ArchDaily as "Snøhetta Unveils Plans for World's First Ship Tunnel in Norway."

The Norwegian Coastal Administration has revealed visualizations of the world’s first full-scale ship tunnel that would link two fjords on either side of the Stad Peninsula in Norway, allowing ships to bypass the “most exposed, most dangerous” waters on the Norwegian coast. With the project now in the feasibility stage, architecture studio Snøhetta has produced a series of rendered design concepts to help the project gain traction within the Norwegian government.

The Stad Ship Tunnel would measure 1.7 kilometers long, 36 meters wide and 49 meters tall—large enough to accommodate full-sized boats such as large cruise ships, sailboats, and coastal steamers. Traffic would pass through one way at a time, but even with a waiting period, the tunnel would chop off significant time and hazard from the existing route around the peninsula. Estimates show that between 70 and 120 ships could use the tunnel on a daily basis.

Working with Olav Olsen of Norwegian consulting firm Norconsult, Snøhetta has designed the two entrances to the tunnel using the material palette of the peninsula, with both wire-cut and blasted stone walls making up the opening arches. On the Moldefjorden side, the design would utilize the steep landscape to create a dramatic entrance. A more sensitive, terraced opening would pop out at Kjødepollen, where a small village is located.

The idea for building a ship tunnel through the Stad Peninsula has been discussed for over 100 years, with original plans documented as far back as the 1870s. Historians have even discovered that Vikings often preferred to portage their ships over the 1.7 kilometer stretch than sail through the dangerous seas.

Initial cost estimates for the project come in at 2.3billion Kroner (~$270 million USD). The Norwegian Coastal Association is hoping to receive a final political decision soon. If approved, construction could begin as early as 2019. News via Norwegian Coastal Association. Written by Patrick Lynch. Want more from ArchDaily? Like their Facebook page here. Archdaily_Collab_1
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Snøhetta’s Times Square revamp is finally complete

Last week, in that languid time between Christmas and New Years', the City of New York celebrated the completion of a major public works project—not the Second Avenue subway, but an above-ground reconstruction of one of the world's busiest intersections. Almost eight years ago, the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled plans to dramatically transform Manhattan's Times Square. The $55 million vision, conceived by New York–based Snøhetta, replaced car-clogged streets with pedestrian plazas on Broadway in Times Square between West 42nd and West 47th streets. The project, which spans 85,000 square feet of former roadway, broke ground in 2013. Officials praised the improvements at a December 28 ceremony. “Being able to carve out two acres of new space for pedestrians in one of the world’s most popular plazas is a remarkable gift to the tens of millions of people who visit the ‘Crossroads of the World’ each year,” said Department of Design and Construction (DDC) commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora, in a statement. “Times Square is now equipped with more resilient sewer systems, wider sidewalks, ample seating, and an emphasis on pedestrian safety that will serve generations to come.” Changes to the "bowtie" were first spearheaded by former DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Now tourists and New Yorkers (if there are any who go willingly) can enjoy new benches, chairs, and tables dotting the five plazas, wider sidewalks, as well as a raised bike lane along 7th Avenue. "With the changes unveiled today, Times Square is now a safer and more welcoming place for the millions of residents, commuters and tourists who visit and pass through it every day," Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized. "I am so proud that our agencies could come together and finish their incredible work before the new year, ending the disruption that invariably comes with big and complex construction projects.”
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2016 Building of the Year > West: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Expansion by Snøhetta

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013 Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it's grown to 26 exciting categoriesAs in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you.

2016 Building of the Year > West: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Expansion

Architect: Snøhetta Location: San Francisco, CA

The expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art reimagines SFMOMA as a new art experience and gateway into the city of San Francisco. Snøhetta integrated the building with the existing Mario Botta design from 1995, while making the museum more accessible than ever, tripling the amount of exhibition space and expanding the public gallery and outdoor areas. Seeking to engage with the community in a proactive way, the addition opens up new routes of public circulation through the South of Market neighborhood and into the museum.

General Contractor Webcor Builders

Facade Contractor Enclos

Lighting and Facade Engineering

Arup Structural Engineering Magnusson Klemencic Associates FRP Fabricators Kreysler & Associates Graphic Perf® Entry Panels Arktura Honorable Mention: Building of the Year > West: Washington Fruit & Produce Co. Office Headquarters

Architect: Graham Baba Architects Location: Yakima, WA

Tucked behind landforms and site walls, this courtyard-focused office complex provides a serene refuge from the noise and activity of nearby fruit packing warehouses. Taking cues from an aging barn, the building is light and open with a muted palette, reclaimed wood siding, and a rooted connection to the land.

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Cornell Tech’s Verizon Executive Education Center and hotel unveiled

Renderings have been revealed for Cornell Tech's Verizon Executive Education Center (EEC) and hotel proposal on its Roosevelt Island campus in New York City. While the center and hotel—designed by Norwegian-American firm Snøhetta—are still pending approval from the Public Design Commission, Cornell Tech aims for the two buildings to be built by 2019. The EEC will contain event and teaching spaces. The former will cater to as many as 300 people through numerous conference rooms, a buffet lounge, and four classrooms capable of accommodating up to 75 students. Its facade comprises tightly spaced timber and aluminum mullions with glass fenestration dominating the top and bottom levels. The adjacent hotel—complete with a cafe, restaurant, rooftop lounge, and 195 rooms—will link up with the building through a shared hall. As for the campus itself, parking facilities will not be available. Pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes, and bicycle storage facilities will comprise its circulation. According to DNAinfo, Cornell Tech's Senior Director of Capital Projects, Andrew Winters, said he views the EEC and hotel as "the front door for the campus." The two buildings are the final part of "Phase One" (of three) for Cornell Tech's Roosevelt Island plans which are penned for completion in 2043.
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Snøhetta named to master plan Oregon Museum of Science and Industry expansion

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) has tapped international architecture firm Snøhetta to lead the master planning process for the riverfront institution’s 16-acre campus located in on Portland’s eastside. Snøhetta, who has offices in New York and San Francisco, as well as abroad, will work with several local firms and OMSI stakeholders in order to provide a “market-driven strategy that outlines the best economic and environmental uses of OMSI’s physical property while highlighting the museum’s work as a cultural touchstone, science education resource, and trailhead to connect the community to learning and skill-building opportunities that equip them for 21st-century jobs.” The project will bring the firm together with economic consultants ECONorthwest, engineering firm Buro Happold, planning firm Spencer Consultants, traffic consultants DKS, civil engineers KPFF and Portland, Oregon—based landscape architects Mayer/Reed as the team hopes to articulate this future vision for the campus. Work on the OMSI Master Plan is set to begin this month and will continue into the spring of 2017. In a press release announcing the firm’s selection, Craig Dykers, founding partner of Snøhetta stated, “Portland's future is intimately linked with the pursuit of education, a greater understanding of the sciences, and our relationship to the environment. To be a part of this journey together with OMSI is a rare opportunity to shape a larger component of society.” The project comes as Snøhetta’s work across West Coast expands, with recently-completed projects like the 235,000-square-foot expansion to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and a proposal for a new public market in Portland garnering region-wide recognition for the firm.
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Snøhetta unveils their design for Beirut tower after triumphing in competition

New York and Oslo-based studio Snøhetta has released images of their design for the Banque Libano Francaise (BLF) headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. In what will be Snøhetta's first project in the country, the design features a plethora of vegetation sprayed across the building's openings. "The design for the new general headquarters points towards a new future both for the bank and for the city and community of which it is a part," the firm said. "The BLF headquarters should be recognizable with all its public qualities independently of evolving corporate strategies or changing demands on the interior spaces. It embodies a new future for the bank, as well referencing the rich history and value set that has evolved over generations." Wrapped in a skin of checkerboard voids, each which hold a window, the orthogonal system is replicated at a much larger scale to form the building's overall structure. Snøhetta describes the concept as "both generic and conceptual at the same time," with the building taking an aesthetic reminiscent of a Tetris formation. The style also facilitates the opening of wide-birthing terraces which house the greenery while providing much needed shading from the Lebanese summer sun. With temperatures averaging 82 degrees fahrenheit during this period, these will serve as both meeting places and spots to take in the expansive views across the city. Indeed, the structure's relationship to its context was a key driver in the design phase; the firm describes how the "public base" connects at street level. "Maintaining a high degree of permeability at street level is an essential element for the project, ensuring connectivity across the site and with the wider neighborhood," Snøhetta added on their website. Other parameters focused on economic and environmental factors. "The project must be fundamentally economically viable," they continued, going on to say "[it] must give back to the city and complement the existing urban context" and "must respond to the environment both in regard to energy consumed and with regard the embodied energy of the structure." “We are delighted to enter into this creative partnership with the BLF. In a time of profound change and transformation, the BLF is an ideal partner for Snøhetta with our shared ideals of sustainability, community, and dialogue,” said Snøhetta founding partner Kjetil T. Thorsen.
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Will San Franciscans embrace the new SFMOMA?

In 1995, as Mario Botta’s brand new San Francisco Museum of Art debuted, critic Pilar Viladas wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times, “San Francisco’s MOMA Moment: Mario Botta designed an interior that is sublime. But what happened to the rest of the new museum?” A similar question has been on architecture critics’ minds since Snøhetta’s $305 million expansion to Botta’s original opened to the press on April 28.

The original building was designed as an outpost for culture in a downtrodden area, a muscle man for the artistically curious. Now, billions are pouring into the area with a regional transit center, 5.4-acre elevated park, and new highrise neighborhood planned adjacent to the museum. And so, SFMOMA is evolving to reflect downtown San Francisco’s new inflection point. Interestingly, SFMOMA’s board of directors has done what those of other major national museums like New York City’s Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art, and Los Angeles’s LACMA have not: Drastically expand and reorganize gallery space without demolishing their existing museum or having to relocate to an entirely new building. Snøhetta was tasked with constructing a real building, whereas OMA and Michael Graves Architecture merely proposed similar ideas in their respective Whitney proposals decades ago. But if Viladas’s assertion that Botta’s original was ugly on the outside was proven ultimately false—San Franciscans seem to love the original SFMOMA through and through—Snøhetta’s expansion begs a new, complicated question: What happened to the rest of the old museum?

Snøhetta’s point of view in that regard is a standard one: Emphasize the existing through opposition. The 235,000-square-foot expansion grows out of the original structure’s backside and then rises ten stories above. By filling the narrow site to capacity and adding a new entrance along Howard Street, the architects greatly expanded the program’s public areas. Like in the original museum, the first three floors will be free to the public, a group that now includes all San Franciscans aged 18 and under.

This new entry features a maze of interlocking double height spaces, including a wood-clad amphitheater overlooking a pair of Richard Serra’s Sequence sculptures. The new amphitheater and Botta’s existing monumental rotunda meet at the second floor, creating “a living room for San Francisco,” as Craig Dykers, principal of Snøhetta, relayed during a guided tour. The proportions of this new “living room” are more intimate in nature than Botta’s proud entry. Snøhetta has retooled that existing entry by replacing the original oversize white switchback stairway with a low-slung wood one. Drawing comparisons to the firm’s prior Oslo Operahuset where the plane of the roof is sloped to allow pedestrian access from surrounding streets, Dykers said, “You feel ownership over a space when you can walk on the roof.” That’s a funny way to describe being on the second floor of a ten-story building, but what Snøhetta really did is bring the street indoors by luring up pedestrians from a variety of approaches.

The third floor contains dedicated photography galleries as well as a buzzing coffee shop. A large grow wall and outdoor Calder plaza flank this floor’s entry landing, creating a cool and shaded space teeming with growing things and art objects that grants museumgoers their first real glance at the museum’s icy east facade. From there up, gallery spaces stack neatly and predictably, joined for two floors by existing galleries in the Botta building.

The remaining floors above are accessed by a maze of single-run and increasingly narrow blonde wood staircases Dykers likens to those in a private home. The simultaneously jagged and swoopy perimeters of the staircases are offset by minimalist detailing. Treads, framed by Alvar Aalto-inspired hand rails, are embedded in the wall at the curved side only to pull away from it again in a reveal along the angular boundary. At your feet, singular lengths of stained planks mark the beginning and end of each stair run. “Everything your body touches is made of wood,” Lara Kaufman, project architect for the expansion, explained of the “floating,” ergonomic design of the galleries’ wood floors.

The galleries themselves are obsessive in their minimalist articulation. Dykers said outlets, return air grilles, and lighting subconsciously distract the art viewer and that the firm’s goal was to disappear these components in the gallery spaces. The team was also careful to position overhead lighting in specially calibrated vaulting that complements the galleries’ eastward-facing glazing.

The “contemporary” gallery on the seventh floor showcases recent work in a space with exposed ductwork and framing above the exhibition walls. The three floors above it are dedicated to staff offices.

Ultimately, Snøhetta’s team has made an unambiguous and honest effort to address the complicated calculus involved in adding onto a beloved art institution in a dense urban environment. As with the original structure, only time will tell how San Francisco takes to its new modern art museum.

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Craig Dykers and Nic Rader on nature, architecture, sustainability, and everything in between

Recently Gregory Hurcomb sat down with Craig Dykers and Nic Rader of internationally-based Snøhetta to discuss some of their latest projects on the boards in the San Francisco office. Given the new SFMOMA, Hurcomb wanted to consider how they were moving forward with new and dynamic proposals that help rethink architecture’s relationship with landscape, nature, the public, and sustainability. As the firm often looks to engage the user in compelling ways through the use of vast spaces located somewhere between landscape and architecture, how do they work to create these places and think about the ever-evolving hand of the designer in relationship to the world’s ever-shifting environment.

The Architect’s Newspaper: Is there something new on the boards here in San Francisco?

Nicolas Rader: We have a project on the corner of Market Street and Van Ness, right near the office, in the heart of the downtown area. We’re working with a great client called Build, Inc., who does a lot of work and is very well respected in San Francisco. It’s a very ambitious project, a 40-story condominium tower, but to us, the most interesting part is the proposal to close down part of Oak Street where it meets Van Ness to create a new public plaza. Of course, the client has an interest in the tower, but they also really want to improve the neighborhood as a whole. It will provide an amenity that is really fantastic for the city overall.

Is the general plan to make it more pedestrianized?

NR: Yes, more pedestrianized. There will be some artistic wind canopies in the plaza as well. The intersection is incredibly windy and can be so strong that it often knocks people over. We’re currently working with engineers to figure out the structural optimization for those.

How would you say the firm approaches the idea of land and the natural? For the project here in San Francisco, we could consider the artistic wind canopies and look at wind as a natural phenomenon pushing against us. How does that connect to your design process?

Craig Dykers: Many people misunderstand our relationship with landscape. I think many people naturally assume that our work is to merge things together, to merge architecture and landscape and vice-versa. While that does occur on some projects, there are other projects where merging is the opposite of what we want to do. Sometimes you want to push back against nature. The more important issue is having a dialogue, and that is where we always begin. We always want to find out what the relationship of a condition is to a project. That could mean merging things, or it could mean ignoring them or to make a point, just so long as the dialogue exists. In that sense there is a character of understanding the invisible as well as the visible. Some of the context might be things that you can’t see: cultural context, psychological context, driven by things beyond the nature of sight, or the place itself. In addition, we do quite a good deal of branding and graphic design work as well. With identity creation, we also like to get physical, so that even our branding work very directly connects you to a place. For example, we most recently designed Norway’s new bank notes, which speak to the Norwegian coastal landscape.

Building on the connection between architecture and landscape, what would you say is your design approach? Is it cultural from the beginning, or is it more specific to the job and the client?

CD: We don’t necessarily think of ourselves as tailors but there is a certain degree of that involved.  Our projects often begin with conversations about what people might find valuable. Sometimes those conversations are internal among the design team; sometimes they are external. We often go out and talk to people in the community surrounding the site. We’ve begun many projects by interviewing people on the street. It’s always a little embarrassing to walk up to complete strangers and ask them to speak into a microphone when you’re not a TV or media journalist, but it’s important for us to hear what they have to say. We also work closely with specialists to hear what they think and we try to create something that is built around all of those understandings. Now that doesn’t mean that if someone says this we say the same thing back. We’re not just a sponge. We also have our own ideas and ways of seeing things. And that is the core of how a project begins: can we create something that is surprising and familiar at the same time?

NR: We often approach a project with questions, even if we think we know the answers. Certainly, we contribute some answers but we gather as much information from others as we can just to get a more holistic view. Then, we apply critical filters to it to better understand the best solution.

CD: Many architects today rely on a form of abstraction in their research. Mapping technologies and other ways of analyzing information are very interesting to us. But our work is always grounded in a more intuitive understanding, and a less abstract way of manipulating knowledge.

What does sustainability mean to the firm?

CD: Well, there are many types of sustainability: economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, environmental sustainability, and one of the things that we like to talk about is intellectual sustainability. How can we expect to manage nature if we can’t manage human nature? Human nature, emotions, and perspectives are all somewhat out of our control. You just have to pick up the newspaper to see all of the rivalries and polarity that exists in the world. Our work tries to create a sense of intellectual capacity through socialization. A kind of social interaction that builds awareness that will help people commit to other, more direct forms of sustainability, like environmental sustainability.

NR: In a way, I often think it’s sort of dangerous even to talk about sustainability because it’s something that should be inherent in practice and in discourse. By calling it out as something special or something separate assumes that some people choose to ignore it, which in itself is a problem. My approach is a little bit different because I don’t sit here and talk about sustainability. I wouldn’t consider myself ‘green’, or even talk about intellectual sustainability, but it’s something that I try to integrate into the way that I think and practice.

Well I bring it up mainly because I think because it is a somewhat contentious word these days, and possibly always, because there is a movement that is associated with “green” architecture. One of the noteworthy aspects about Snøhetta for me is an inherent ecological awareness and a certain connection to the earth in your projects.

NR: What I appreciate about our work and our approach is that we’re not known as “sustainability architects” or “sustainability designers.” It’s embedded so deeply into our design that there is an assumption—and a genuinely accurate assumption—that it’s just there.

CD: What you’re saying is really important. I think many people who are working with this mindset have sort of marginalized themselves. They’ve said, well, we’re not like those people over there, we’re like these people over here, and you’re either one of us or one of them. And I don’t think that’s healthy.

In some regards perhaps it is too isolationist of a stance. We’ve created a camp or a group and we’re just over there talking amongst ourselves with this singular set of concerns, these particular thoughts and ideas.

CD: And then the conversation becomes, “if it doesn’t look environmentally sustainable then it can’t possibly be,” or “if it looks good then it can’t possibly be environmentally sustainable.” Or more often, it goes in the other direction, where someone says it’s ugly, therefore it must be environmentally friendly. And on that note, I’d like to consider the notion of interactivity and the promotion of diversity in architecture. I think it does have a very large impact eventually on how we function as a society in dealing with very large complex issues, like the environmental conditions of the earth we live on. You won’t be able to solve it one building at a time, although that helps. But you also have to create a condition where people start to think differently about who they are when they walk through a city, or when they walk into a building. They are thinking about their place in this wider world that we all live in…and that is where intellectual sustainability supports environmental sustainability.