For over eight decades, SOM has been a leading voice in emphasizing structural poetics, or the integration of architectural and engineering efforts into built form. This mashup of rationalism and elegance was on full display at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennale, where they collaborated with Mana Contemporary to deliver a pop-up exhibition titled "SOM: Engineering x [Art + Architecture]," that ran from September 2017 through early January 2018 at the Ace Hotel. Among sketches, study models, and impressive structural mockup systems sat a lineup of more than 30 structural models at 1:500 scale, arranged by height.
ArchitectsSkidmore, Owings & Merrill
Date of Completion
Systemunitized curtain wall
custom unitized glass curtain wall with integrated metal clad shadow box and horizontal fins
Hangzhou Wangchao Center has seamlessly grown out of this impressive survey of work—a design that exists as proof-of-concept to SOM’s design approach. Along with a robustly reinforced concrete core, the 54-story mixed use tower is defined by eight “mega-columns,” as defined by SOM, which weave back and forth as they track upwards. Secondary perimeter columns establish uniform bay spacing to the interior, connected diagonally to the primary corner columns with a Vierendeel transfer truss.Beyond creating an expressive formal shape, the structural configuration offers performance benefits such as wind load reduction and flexible column-free interior floor plates. The resulting unitized facade was carefully designed into a rationalized stepped surface to allow for flat planar glazing units. The canted curtain wall, which follows the tapered massing of the tower, is organized into floor-to ceiling units which slip past the finished floor level to create a sense of continuity from the interior. A recessed shadow box and horizontal fin assembly further articulates a reveal gap between floor plates. This carefully developed building envelope detail offers a discrete path for the building to accommodate natural ventilation.
The ground floor building enclosure was engineered to accommodate 36-foot-tall glazing panels around the perimeter of the tower, dissolving the boundary between the surrounding cityscape, and highlighting a massive stone-clad core that blooms outward into the space of the lobby.The tower is currently under construction, with piles for the foundation system being driven into the ground. The project will be complete by 2021 just ahead of Hangzhou’s hosting of the 2022 Asian Games, a multi-sport event held every four years.
An active light display animates the facade of a new office building in Warsaw, Poland, highlighting the Wola neighborhood’s transition from industrial manufacturing to a new residential and office district. The Prime Corporate Center was designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz in conjunction with the Warsaw office of Epstein.
Facade ManufacturerGuardian Glass (glazing); Aluprof / Widok (curtain wall)
ProductsMB-SR50N HI Mullion-transom wall by Aluprof
The building’s design addresses varying vehicular and pedestrian arrival points by segregating car drop-off from those arriving by public transit. An additional 15 stories of offices above an eight-story base is coordinated with the scale of the street.Martin Wolf, principal at Solomon Cordwell Buenz, said the simplicity of the building allowed his team to focus on a sophisticated facade composition: "This project became an exercise in pattern, geometry, and very subtle layers of texture. We achieved this through the combination of fritted glass panels, clear view glazing, and a selective articulation of the curtain wall system."At night, a grid of LED lights incorporated into the unitized curtain wall system to produce a delicate, shifting array of color and pattern that dramatizes the exterior wall. Guardian Glass's Poland manufacturing facility provided glazing and worked with the project team to integrate LED wiring into the curtain wall. These linear lights are wired into a central computer housed in the building, which hosts a computer sequencing program. The technology allows for Prime’s facade to be easily programmed by the building operator, who can flexibly produce variation in lighting schemes.Prime’s building envelope features integrated building systems to control the MEP/FP systems, a monitoring system that optimizes water and electrical power consumption, a heating recovery system, and an interior shading system to help manage solar heat gain. The office plates are designed for future flexibility, incorporating a raised floor system and column-free interior space. These features contribute to the building’s BREEAM certification, a UK green building rating system. Wolf said the Solomon Cordwell Buenz’s office continues to have an ongoing interest in integrative lighting techniques, and that LEDs allow for an impressive amount of variables for any project team to work with. "The beauty about LED is that if you wire it properly, you have an infinite array of color, sequencing, intensity, and timing." Facades like Prime’s, which have the capacity for coordinated building-scale lighting schemes, have the opportunity to communicate with the city utilizing data analysis, upcoming cultural events, and atmospheric conditions. According to Wolf, Prime is an “incredible work of art,” and adds “a needed touch of whimsy” to the urban context.
A video of the facade lights in action can be seen below:
Deborah Berke Partners' first new construction office project, located in downtown Indianapolis, opened earlier this year. Designed for Cummins Inc., the nine-story building includes flexible office space, retail, and a new urban park, all of which support the engine company's business goals and the revitalization of downtown Indianapolis. The building sits on the site of a former arena that the architects say produced an anti-urban “gaping hole in the city.” The transformation of this site was driven by urbanistic motives designed to correct these failures, producing a carefully scaled mid-rise tower that is informed by contextual and environmental criteria.
Facade ManufacturerErie Architectural Products
ArchitectsDeborah Berke Partners (design architect); Ratio (architect of record)
Facade InstallerThe Blakley Corporation
Facade ConsultantsFront, Inc.; Atelier Ten (sustainability)
ProductsCurtain Wall and Storefront systems: Erie Architectural Products; Glazing: Viracon and Cristacurva (curved glass); Sunshade manufacturer: Clover Architectural Products; Garage façade manufacturer: Proclad, Inc.
Examples of this design approach can be seen on the prominent south facade where its patterning undulates along the length of the building as opportunities for views outward into the city appear. A gradient pattern of frit glazing gives way to full view glass at the middle of the building facade to demarcate a series of double height “social hubs” centrally located in the building to foster a collaborative work environment. Elsewhere, on the west facade, afternoon shadows cast by a neighboring building allowed large projecting fins on the curtain wall to taper in depth as they track down the facade.
Noah Biklen, principal at Deborah Berke Partners, said that having a client who is a technology leader like Cummins inspired a careful “tuning” process in the design of the facade system, involving life-cycle analysis and a global look at project's design approach. “We wanted everything to have quality and precision, and [we] spent a lot of time thinking about the shaping of vertical fins, horizontal shades, and the detailing of connections. We introduced curvature to provide a very machined and engineered presence. Particularly at the corners, where we wanted to evoke a certain fluidity—a line that could be tracked around the building as the massing shifts.” Biklen added, “This feels like a Cummins engine to us.”
One of the biggest challenges to the project was the schedule, which was fast-tracked at 28 months from the initial site visit to construction completion. The critical challenge of this schedule was ordering the glass, due to coordination and shipping times. To manage this challenge, a design assist process was introduced to help establish a collaborative project team early. Starting around the middle of the design development phase, a “basis of design” document that combined outline specs with some basic design drawings were used to bid out the project to facade contractors and fabricators. Biklen said, "you can immediately start talking about ordering the glass, tricky details, the corners of the building, and more. We were able to have these conversations four or five months into the design process, and we had a design partner who was ultimately going to be the one fabricating these details."The unitized curtain wall facade features three modular widths and a subgrid of two-panel widths. This allows for some controlled variation to the compositional grid of the facade. The New-York–based architects said having a large site area to work with allowed plenty of room for various sizes of unitized panels to be delivered and stocked on site, which helped to ease the complexity of construction sequencing. Another goal was to limit the amount of tempered glass in the project, which the architects said was not desirable due to known issues with spontaneous breakage, and visual “roller wave rippling” distortion from the manufacturing process. The alternative was to use heat-strengthened glass, which undergoes a manufacturing process that minimizes imperfections in the glass. The end result was a product that maximized visual clarity and reflectivity of the building envelope, which Biklen said supported the urbanistic goals of the project. "You have a sense of the internal workings of the building from the city. The more you can be transparent at what's going on helps to make a strong connection to the city," Biklen said. "Having the building be a little didactic makes it a good urban neighbor."
Celebrated as one of a handful of single-block streets in New York City, Renwick Street was once known as an historic printing district and creative area that championed both artistry and industry. New York-based ODA Architecture, the firm behind 15 Renwick Street, said the project works within the constraints of NYC’s zoning code to expand the outdoor rooftop living space of the building.
NYR Building Facades
NYR Building Facades
Forst Consulting and Architecture, PLLC
LocationNew York, NY
Date of Completion
unitized curtain wall, curtain wall, punched windows on concrete structure
aluminum fins & window units (sourced and installed by NYR Building Facades); Zebrano 2403 aluminum inserts (profile color: sublimation wood effects); Stucco byBravo Construction (rear facade); Zahner Metal copper pre-patina sheets (“Dirty Penny” finish); Alucobond metal panels
Coining this massing strategy as a “dormer manipulation,” the architects rearranged allowable volumes of space above the setback line throughout the width of the building. This produces 15 percent more outdoor terrace space and serves twice as many units, extending across the uppermost floors of the building. As a result, the facade appears as a gridded block that fragments at the top, revealing an inner layer to the building. The architects said 15 Renwick was the first in a long line of designs that employ this massing strategy which has evolved into a common practice for their firm.
The 31-unit building contains a unique mix of townhouses with private yards, penthouse duplexes, and two- and three-bedrooms. The building is composed of a typical concrete structure with added lateral bracing in the 15-foot cantilevered "flying dormer" massing. The residential units are clad with a carefully detailed unitized curtain wall system that was delivered in collaboration with NYR Building Facades who integrated design, fabrication, and installation of the facade. The unitized systems were prefabricated for each residence and transported to the site where they were quickly and easily installed.
Among the most notable features of the facade are the 10-inch-deep projecting fins clad in a dark anodized aluminum. While the fins taper to a narrow width, ODA said their depth helps to provide privacy, blocking views into the units from the sidewalk. The fins feature a wood grain insert on the exterior side which produces a visually striking aesthetic. “The wood trim inserts around the aluminum windows give a warm tint to the facade and create layers of color with different sun exposures.”
Beyond the dark anodized fins, copper is utilized as an accent material. ODA said the success of this project stems from the material qualities of the facade: “The integration of the hand-installed copper on the ground floor with the unitized facade system show the level of bespoke design of the facade and the richness of materials and their own requirements for detail solutions.”
The Sandra Day O'Connor Law School, at Arizona State University (ASU), is a new six-story, 260,000-square-foot state-of-the-art law school, designed by New York-based Ennead Architects in collaboration with Jones Studio. The architecture of the building is inspired by the school’s progressive legal scholarship and outreach to the community through services like a public interest law clinic and the nation’s first not-for-profit teaching law firm. Ennead Architects say the Phoenix-based school is designed to act as an institutional agent of change dedicated to educating students and citizens on the importance of the law in shaping civil society.
Ennead Architects; Jones Studio (Local Architect)
DPR Construction (construction manager)
unitized prefabricated panels on steel frame construction
Kovach (unitized facade and storefronts); GKD (fall protection and media mesh); Cornerstone (Arizona sandstone); Fabri-Tech Structures (Courtyard sails); Performance Solutions (retractable seating system); Barrett-Homes (Hunter Douglas Ceilings & ACGI); ISEC (custom millwork)
In response to this initiative, the building design encourages vibrant connections between ASU, the College of Law, and the local downtown Phoenix community. A north-south “slice” through the courtyard massing creates an inviting and active public space with a pedestrian pathway that brings individuals directly into the central core of the law school, exposing them to the main lobby and three double-height spaces located at the heart of the building. Here, an expansive bi-folding glass door at the front of the school's Great Hall blurs the line between indoor and outdoor space, providing flexibility while offering a unique civic space to the downtown Phoenix community.
Brian Masuda, associate partner at Ennead Architects, said this massing strategy paired environmental responsiveness with the desire to expose the core functions of the building to the public. The courtyard allows views into the building while self-shading large glazed areas of the facade.
Sustainability was a key design driver throughout the process. A "hard-shell," which the design team considered a "protective skin" that performs as a shading device, wraps all of the exterior surfaces of the building. Ennead collaborated with Buro Happold to develop an articulated facade of Arizona sandstone with aluminum and glass windows. Masuda said internal programming and solar orientation prompted undulation in the window openings of the facade: "The aesthetic was driven by the program and environmental analysis. We wanted to make the stone facade modulate and calibrate in a way that when the windows got wider, fin elements got deeper."
The facade is unitized and factory assembled, both to assure quality and to achieve a higher standard of thermal performance. The decision to work with a unitized system also helped with an aggressive one-year design and documentation schedule, said Masuda: "A unitized prefab facade system came into play because of the efficiency of the construction."
Heavily insulated walls and roof also contribute to the efficiency of the shell. Mechanically, the building incorporates energy-efficient technologies, including chilled beams and under-floor displacement cooling. The project team said that because of the integration of these passive systems, they relied more heavily on the performance of the building envelope. "Hot spots" discovered through energy modeling were managed by the fine tuning of glazing types, the specification of high solar heat gain coefficients, and fritting in specific areas of the facade.
The building is expected to reduce energy consumption by 37% compared to a baseline building, per ASHRAE 90.1-2007. Desert-adaptive planting and water features activate the landscape, helping to minimize on-site irrigation demands. The building taps into a campus-wide system of tracking energy usage, which is publicly accessible online through ASU’s “campus metabolism” website.
Chicago architects Goettsch Partners, along with Clayco and Thornton Tomasetti, among others, have achieved U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum certification on a new North American headquarters for Zurich Insurance. The campus, located in suburban Chicago is the largest LEED Platinum Core and Shell v2009 project in the U.S. and the only LEED Platinum CS v2009 project in Illinois. The building achieves a 62.7 percent whole-building energy cost savings, making use of multiple green roofs, energy efficient technologies, rainwater harvest and re-use, accommodations for electric and low-emitting vehicles, and native landscaping with more than 600 trees on 40 acres.
FacadeTek (Indianapolis) for Ventana
CK2 installer (contracted by Ventana)
Thornton Tomasetti (sustainability consultant / daylighting / façade performance); CDC (unitized curtain wall design for Ventana / FacadeTek); Sentech (engineering of glass fin lobby wall and ventilated double skin façade)
Date of Completion
Unitized curtain wall with integrated horizontal aluminum sunshades, structurally glazed ventilated double wall
Shanghai Pilkington / Carey Glass / PPG-Oldcastle (exterior glazing); Ventana / FacadeTek-CDC/ Active Glass (Curtain wall and storefront systems); Ventana / Sentech (Structural glass systems); Prodema (exterior soffits); Horiso (Double-skin façade cavity shading); Lutron (Interior solar control shading)
The building is composed of three primary “bars” stacked and arranged to maximize views of the surrounding landscape and optimize solar orientation. The composition is benchmarked off the top volume, which was rotated 22-degrees. Paul De Santis, principal of Goettsch Partners, said this calculated move aligns the building with downtown Chicago, over 30 miles away. "The idea that you are in the suburbs but have a visual connection to the city resonated with Zurich's leaders." The lower bar on the east side of the campus is set 90-degrees off of the top bar, which helps to deflect northern winds and buffers sound from a nearby highway. Its rotation allows for direct sun in the courtyard near midday, promoting outdoor campus usage during the lunch hour.
The curtain wall facade wraps outboard of three super scale trusses that are set 60 feet on center, achieving an 180-foot span over the middle of the campus, and a 30-foot cantilever at the perimeter.
Michael Pulaski, vice president of Thornton Tomasetti, said that their team fine-tuned the glazing characteristics on the building, and custom designed a shading system that reduces peak gains and optimized daylighting. Detailed daylighting studies, using parametric software like Honeybee, were used to evaluate the effects of automated interior blinds and fine-tune the depth of the exterior shading devices for each orientation. The analysis optimized the depth of the shades for energy performance, which reduced peak solar gain for better thermal comfort and the size of the mechanical systems.
De Santis said that in addition to this significant work to manage electricity usage, the management of water on site helped the project achieve its LEED Platinum rating. To push the project from a gold to platinum rating, De Santis said, "it comes down to two things: energy and water." The project team also incorporated features such as 1 acre of green roofs, native planting strategies, and large water retention areas for landscaping irrigation.
The most advanced facade assembly occurs along the glazed south-facing wall of a three-story cafeteria where a ventilated double-wall facade was specified. Here, to verify performance and optimize the façade for reduced energy consumption, Thornton Tomasetti provided computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling. The 4.5-foot-wide double wall with integrated shades is designed to reduce solar gains in summer, while increasing the gains in the winter, as well as to improve daylighting, resulting in an estimated 33 percent energy savings in the adjacent space.
Elsewhere, a single low-e coating on the number two surface (inner side of the exterior layer) continues through the insulated spandrel panels to produce a more uniform aesthetic while helping to minimize solar heat gain.
The ground floor features a more transparent recessed glass, which De Santis said was an aesthetic and compositional move to help the upper floors read as "floating" volumes.
With approximately 2,400 employees moved into the facility, the campus was designed to accommodate up to 2,800 employees. De Santis said the two lower bars are designed to extend an additional 100-linear-feet if and when more space is needed in the future: "It's very rare to work on a 26-acre site. We're used to working in very urban conditions. So the idea that the land allows for some of these growth strategies is very natural for the project. The longer these bars get, the more elegant the architectural expression will be."
Surrounded by parkland and built on a former industrial site, the new JTI Headquarters is located in a Geneva district home to prestigious international organizations. JTI (Japan Tobacco International) is a global tobacco company whose flagship brands include Winston, Camel, Mild Seven, Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut. The competition-winning design consolidates four existing JTI premises within a single landmark building. The project—a collaboration between SOM’s architecture, structural engineering, and interior teams—was led by their London office, but involved expertise from SOM offices in New York and Chicago, along with architects on site in Geneva throughout construction. Kent Jackson, design partner at SOM, said the new building demonstrates SOM’s commitment to integrated design, sustainability, and innovative workplace solutions. "Clearly we feel it is a huge benefit to bring all of our disciplines together and bringing different experts from across our offices. This is something we think brings added value to a project."
Josef Gertner AG
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Burckhardt+Partner AG (Local Architect)
Josef Gartner AG (facade contractor)
Date of Completion
Closed Cavity Facade (CCF)
Interpane ipasol bright white coating on low-iron glass (Outer solar control glass); Interpane iplus 3E coatings on low-iron glass (Inner triple insulated glass); Mechoshade Thermoveil 1519 ‘ Silver Birch’ (Shading blinds within cavity); Christian Pohl GmbH (Anodized aluminum perforated soffit panels)
The building’s innovative Closed Cavity Facade (CCF) was designed in collaboration with Josef Gartner GmbH as a unitized curtain wall system that responds to the demands of seasonally changing external climatic conditions while providing exceptional views out and maximizing daylight penetration into the workspace. The facade prioritizes occupant comfort and reduces the energy demand and carbon emissions of the building, helping it to meet the requirements of European energy directives and the Swiss Minergie sustainability rating. The floor-to-ceiling glazed panels measure approximately 10-foot-wide-by-14-feet-tall and consist of triple glazing on the inner layer and single glazing on the outer, forming a cavity with a fabric roller blind in between.
One challenge with a typical double skin facade is the risk of condensation and dirt in the cavity. This introduces the need to provide maintenance access to the cavity, either by opening up the interior side or exterior side of the assembly. The closed cavity facade at JTI reduces these requirements, because rather than drawing external air into the cavity, the cavity is pressurized with a very small amount of filtered and dehumidified air from a pipe system that runs around the perimeter of the building. This ensures dirt and moisture from outside don't travel through into the cavity, while also preventing condensation inside the cavity.
To achieve this design, SOM relied on facade contractors who have become skilled in the assembly of envelopes that minimize building air leakage. Martin Grinnell, Associate Director at SOM and Technical Lead on the project, attributes this to increasingly stringent air tightness standards in Europe, where many buildings undergo building envelope pressure testing. "We were confident we could achieve this design and get a very careful balance of air tightness with a modest pump in the basement to pressurize all of the facade panels."
The German-made closed cavity facade was shop-built in individual unitized panels comprised of both the inner and outer layer of glazing. By producing these units in a controlled factory environment, the fabrication sequence could ensure the cavity remained clean throughout the construction process. The panels were tested in the factory for air tightness, and whilst stored in the yard of the factory they were temporarily tapped into an air supply system which kept the cavity pressurized prior to delivery to site. Once installed on site, the panels were plugged immediately into a network of pressurized air so that the cavity would not draw in dirty air or moisture from construction activity.
With just a single glazed pane on the outer layer of the facade, Grinnell says the project team was able to produce a more expressive facade. “We were able to achieve a quilted appearance on the outside; incorporating very delicate mullions, transoms, and diagonal elements because we were using a single outer layer. We were able to facet this layer much more easily than if we were trying to do that with a double or triple glazed layer. I think this lent a real delicacy to the detailing of the outer skin of the facade."
Grinnell said the facade represents one of the best performing all-glass facade systems in SOM’s history. "This was a great project, and is a great demonstration of what a closed cavity facade system can do. We're very proud of it. All of the European countries—UK included—are pushing harder and harder on energy efficiency, and clients are quite rightly looking to us to improve the efficiency of our facades. We are going to be developing more and more facades which rely on dynamic performance—having to achieve very good solar control in the summer, while admitting sunlight in the winter—and the closed cavity facade is a really interesting solution to achieve that."
A nearly 1,000-foot, mixed-use tower was recently completed in Guangzhou, the third largest Chinese city behind Beijing and Shanghai, about 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong. This is the third project that Chinese-based R&F Properties has developed with Chicago-based architect Goettsch Partners. The building, named R&F Yingkai Square, benefits from a masterplan that is almost fully realized—to date— and involves planned gardens, cultural space, museums, and mixed-use towers.
Paul De Santis, principal of Goettsch Partners, said the Pearl River area of Guangzhou was envisioned 15 to 20 years ago, and is nearly complete today. “In China, the context often changes too rapidly to formally respond, but the government was very committed to this particular master plan. It gave us an opportunity to be contextually sensitive."
Sanxin Facade Technology Ltd.
Goettsch Partners, Guangzhou Residential Architectural Design Institute (Associate Architect)
Linen finish Stainless steel panels by Rimex; Akzo Nobel (architectural coatings); CSG (tower low-e glass and lobby low-iron glass)
Angular canted corner walls break up the massing of the otherwise boxy tower, providing specific views out into the city. While the northwest corner provides good views 250 feet above neighboring buildings, the northeast corner is best viewed only 100-feet high. This led to a “syncopation,” as De Santis called it, in the location of the 8- to 10-story chamfered corners. He said other view corridors into the cityscape can improve or get worse depending on height. "We use the corner carves to not only architecturally call out the mixed use stacking of the building but also highlight those signature moments."
A nearly 14-foot-high reinforced concrete floor-to-floor spacing accommodates a 10-foot clear ceiling. The exterior wall is a unitized curtain wall system. Operable ventilation for occupant comfort is incorporated into the system. The glass is an insulated low-e assembly with an aluminum mullion system. A lot of energy was put into the detailing of the corner units, which are also unitized, but consist of three layers of laminated fritted glazing for added structural and aesthetic benefits. To address both daytime and nighttime lighting conditions, the frit is two-sided: white on the outside, dark on the inside. At nighttime, the glass can be "grazed" by LED's which allows for the building to be illuminated to the exterior without introducing light to the interior space. During the day, the dark frit from the interior is nearly imperceptible when looking outward to the exterior.
A gradient of panelized stainless steel panels tapers into the curtain wall glazing. The architects say this composition is an expression of the gravitational quality of the tower and a response to the stacked program of the building. By utilizing opaque panels at the base of the tower, the shell of the building is responsive to a connective infrastructure of bridges and tunnels tapping into the building to support retail use. With office and hotel uses above, the panels give way to transparent view glass. The bulk of the building is dedicated to office use, organized into four zones. Situated within the office is a "sky lobby" for the office users. The Park Hyatt occupies nine floors above the offices, and the tower is capped off with hotel amenities such as a pool, lobby, lounges, three restaurants, and an outdoor terrace 300m off the ground.
As stainless panels taper in width, their height and vertical spacing remains constant. Horizontal coursings slightly overlap at spandrel panels, which assume a unique, but repetitive, geometry. The composition allows for a more standardized view glass unit on each floor and De Santis assures us on the logic behind the facades panelization: "It looks more complicated visually than it actually is." One primary dimensional restraint was set by the glass manufacturer who limited a panel width to 600 mm, or around 24 inches, due to manufacturing processes. The final massing of the building was designed iteratively by incorporating a rigorous approach to wall modulation, accommodating glass manufacturing dimensional requirements to produce a "final" geometry of chamfered corners.
The architects integrated lighting into the facade assembly in response to what they consider a cultural norm in tall Chinese construction projects. De Santis said, “Our number one goal was to try to manage light pollution—a serious issue in the city.” To combat this, the architects located LEDs behind stainless steel panels which cant outward as they taper up the building into thin vertical strips. This provides a subtle indirect lighting element without exposing the source. The architects went with this approach to avoid having to flood light or uplight the tower with harsh lighting. The LED's are programmable and can be syncopated, change colors, and dim to produce effects ranging from static to theatrical.
De Santis says the ability of this project to cater to both a pedestrian and urban scale is particularly successful, and a good learning lesson for future tower projects. "The sense of intimacy we were able to achieve for the arrival sequence of the hotel. 300-meter (984-foot) tall towers have a big impact on your surroundings, and to get a level of intimacy means that you are able to incorporate an interesting level of detail and material selections. The feel of the space is anything but cold and austere, which is often the case in large tower buildings." De Santis explains the Hyatt hotel brand prides itself on this level of intimacy. “It's less about grand ballrooms and lobby spaces, and more about producing warmth and a human scale.” This triggered a change of material at the hotel drop off point. A dark anodized steel and Chinese screens in the ceiling pair with a simple natural stone that washes the entire space in a natural, light-toned coloration. This provides a backdrop for sculptural artwork and provides the basis for unique multi-story spaces "carved" into the tower in the upper floor lobby and lounge spaces. De Santis concludes, “Your tower can have an expression. You can create an intimate environment without losing the expression of its urban gesture."
The building's pleated glass envelope contains 1,672 energy efficient panels that uniquely responds to its location.
SOM has floated a glass cube above a large stepped civic plaza negotiating a sloped site in downtown Los Angeles for their United States Courthouse project, scheduled to open July, 2016 with an anticipated LEED Platinum rating. The 633,000 square foot, 220 foot tall facility includes 24 daylight-filled courtrooms and 32 judges’ chambers.
José Luis Palacios, Design Director at SOM Los Angeles, says this structural configuration was integral to the success of the project: “Our challenge was how to make a transparent building, both metaphorically and structurally.”
The project is being labeled as one of the nation’s safest buildings in regards to bomb threats and earthquakes due to an innovative structural engineering concept which allows a large volume of building to “float” over a stone base protected with hardened-concrete shear walls. The outer 33 feet of cantilevered building is suspended from a three-dimensional steel “hat truss” system, freeing the need for columns at the perimeter and ground level. The trusses are efficiently designed through an optimization process which resulted in a material savings of over 13 percent when compared to conventional trusses.
Benson Industries, LLC
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Benson Industries, LLC
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Clack Construction Group (client/construction manager)
Los Angeles, CA
Date of Completion
July 2016 (projected)
High-performance unitized glass panels
The facade is comprised of a unitized 6’ wide by 20’ tall panel, organized into a ‘pleated’ zigzagged surface. By reconciling the downtown Los Angeles street grid, which runs 38 degrees east of true north, with optimum solar angles, the facade managed to reduce solar heat gain, harvest natural daylight, and maximize views into and out of the building. The pleating of the facade allows for a reduction in the radiant heat load of the building by 47 percent compared to a flat surface.
Signage to the building is applied as a ceramic frit pattern to the glass of the pleated facade. The two-dimensional graphic, the ‘Great Seal of the United States,’ is projected onto the three dimensional facade, reinforcing the civic plaza and a frontal approach to the main entrance.
As a result of the pleating, facade panels were broken down into two types: a “hot panel” and a “cold panel” side. Additional variation was introduced through internal program requirements, such as the Broadway and Hill Street facades where courtrooms consists of three internal layers of shades help to manage daylight from both sides of the courtroom.
The modular, shop built assembly of panels is something Palacios says SOM is incorporating into an increasing amount of their projects today: “This gives us long-term durability, and seismic responsiveness: a great flexibility and resiliency.”