Posts tagged with "Aluminum":
Curved metal facade embodies spirit of mobility at LAX.The commission to design a new Central Utility Plant (CUP) for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) came with a major caveat: the original 1960s-era CUP would remain online throughout construction, providing heating and cooling to adjacent passenger terminals until the new plant was ready to take over."We had to keep the existing CUP up and running, build the new one, do the cutover, then tear down the old CUP and build a thermal energy storage tank in its place," explained Gruen Associates project designer Craig Biggi. "It was a very challenging project from that standpoint—working in a 24/7 environment, and getting everything up and running within a small footprint." But despite these and other hurdles, the design-build team (which included Clark/McCarthy, A Joint Venture as general contractors, Arup as A/E design lead, and Gruen Associates as architect) succeeded in delivering the new CUP in time to support LAX's newest terminal. Its curved stainless steel and glass facade captures the airport's spirit of mobility, and helps restore a sense of cohesion to an otherwise fragmented built landscape. LAX is a busy place, both aesthetically and with respect to passenger movement. "There's a lot of visual activity happening there," explained Biggi. "It's been built up over time, so there's this layering effect. This was meant to be an architectural design that not only simplifies some of the visual confusion, but addresses the context of the airport itself as a site that has a lot of movement." When shaping the building envelope, the designers looked at concepts of laminar flow, of which one example is the passage of air over an aircraft wing. "What we came up with was a streamlined architectural expression that ties together three distinct programmatic elements," said Biggi. "The project uses this expression to tie into the existing context by flowing around corners, then opens up at certain locations to allow the program to have ventilation and views." The CUP's primary facade is clad in stainless steel composite panels within a pressurized rain screen system. The architects chose stainless steel, explained partner-in-charge and project manager Debra Gerod, to respond to the potentially corrosive effects of jet fuel and other chemicals as well as the salty Southern California air. In addition, "we had to work to get a finish that wouldn't create reflections," said Gerod. "We're right underneath the control tower. Being mindful that the sun can be at any angle, bouncing off airplanes, that [became a] careful performance-based element" of the design. Non-curved sections of the CUP's envelope feature corrugated aluminum panels, which reduce the risk of reflection and help camouflage functional components including large doors that allow the installation and replacement of equipment. "How we were able to put these giant openings into the side of the facade and have it be blended in and aligned with the corrugated metal paneling—these were some of the things we really paid a lot of attention to," said Gerod. Similarly, the ribbon windows on the stainless steel facade help conceal exhaust louvers, in addition to providing views from the engineers' offices. "We always looked at opportunities for streamlining the aesthetic of the exterior," said Biggi. "We were looking for simple massing that looked fluid in its resolution." Gruen Associates designed the new CUP as a visual landmark for passersby, installing a massive window on the north facade in order to reveal the interior of the chiller room. "This is a bit of an homage to the old CUP," explained Gerod. "When it was first built, it was a really nice building: round, with lots of glass. By the time we got to it, things were spilling out in all directions. But as originally designed, it had a view into the inner workings of the plant." Meanwhile, the architects used blue-colored LEDs and reflectors moved by the wind to create a lighting effect on the adjacent thermal energy storage tank—which, like the nearby cooling towers, is also clad in stainless steel—that mimics the rippling motion of a swimming pool at night. "The lighting effect is meant to address passengers as they're driving down Center Way, and give some animation to the large mass of the storage tank," said Biggi. Here, too, the designers were careful to plan the lighting so as not to interfere with air traffic control functions. LAX's new CUP, which is targeting LEED Gold certification, promises a 25 percent increase in efficiency over the 50-year-old plant it replaces. With continued expansion in the offing, it did not arrive on the scene any too soon. Though much of the design was shaped by current conditions at the airport, including both functional considerations and an aesthetic embrace of the airport's hectic pace, Gruen Associates simultaneously thought ahead, to a larger—but hopefully visually more coherent—LAX. Should a proposed terminal extension to the west come to pass, the CUP's curved stainless steel facade will provide a backdrop for the newer buildings, setting the stage for a more deliberate approach to the airport's ongoing transformation.
Digitally-fabricated folded aluminum screen animates a utilitarian structure.In the Miami Design District, even the parking garages are works of art. The recently completed City View Garage is no exception, thanks in part to a folded aluminum facade designed by IwamotoScott. Part of a design team that included developers Dacra and LVMH/L Real Estate, architect of record TimHaahs Engineers & Architects, architects Leong Leong, and artist John Baldessari, IwamotoScott crafted a three-dimensional metal screen for the southeast corner of the garage. Digitally fabricated by Zahner, the skin's gradient apertures and color pattern transform a utilitarian structure into an animated advertisement for South Florida's hottest creative neighborhood. IwamotoScott submitted multiple concept designs to the developers. "We had three really different schemes—they ranged in their complexity," said founding partner Lisa Iwamoto. "The one they came back with was the most complex, the most articulated facade. We were really happy with the choice." The final design was influenced by a series of external constraints, beginning with the desire to conceal parked cars from view. "It's a Miami thing; they don't really want to see the cars in the garage," explained Iwamoto. She pointed to the car park at 1111 Lincoln Road, where architects Herzog and de Meuron solved the visibility problem by consolidating the parking spaces at the center of each floor, away from the periphery. "For us that wasn't possible," she said. "The cars come right up to the edge so we had to find other ways of screening them." Another factor was the location of the property line—a mere eight inches out from the floor plate. This left IwamotoScott with less than a foot for both the skin and its supporting structure. "The strategy was how to create some optical three dimensionality, a facade that wouldn't feel static, visually," said Iwamoto. "That was our starting point. Then it was a lot of tweaking and geometric studies for how we could achieve those effects and make it buildable." The metal panels' geometric folds contribute to the feeling of depth, and add the stiffness necessary to meet Miami's heavy wind load requirements. In addition, the folds create a moving display of light and color under the city's ever-shifting skies, observed founding partner Craig Scott. "The faceting of the facade was a double payoff." The aluminum screen comprises five panel types. All have the same border shape, but the dimensions of the apertures change from type to type. In early computer drawings, IwamotoScott modeled each panel type in a different color to keep track of the pattern. Over time, explained Iwamoto, "the colors became important to us, so that's how we rendered it." The client liked it, too, so the screen was ultimately painted in a custom spectrum reinforcing the aperture gradient. But while the facade is in reality a panel system, "we were interested in having it feel more like a mural than panels—almost like a piece of fabric draped over the garage," said Iwamoto. "For us it was important that the seams did not follow a more conventional pattern of vertical lines." The apertures are arranged in an offset grid, and the architects avoided a simple system of vertical supports. Instead, the skin hangs from a collection of staggered aluminum fins affixed to the garage's concrete slabs. Zahner fabricated the metal facade in their Kansas City factory. Because they were working on a design-assist basis, the architects were able to make multiple trips to the production facility. "It was cool, because they would make a panel, and we'd say, 'that's almost right'" before adjusting the angle of the fold by a fraction of a degree, said Iwamoto. "It's amazing how many ways there are to skin a cat." Happily for the architects, Zahner's in-house analysis resulted in a panel system remarkably close to what IwamotoScott had envisioned. "I'm delighted with how we ended up," said Iwamoto. "We did our due diligence [in terms of exploring alternative fabrication schemes], but it wound up that the best way to build it was the way we had conceived it." IwamotoScott also took control of an adjacent section of the garage envelope: an open entry stair, elevator bay, and multistory office block. "That was a bonus for us," said Iwamoto. "Rather than someone else designing it, it just made sense for us to do it—it was really part of our elevation." Because so much of the project budget went to the garage skin, the architects stuck with a basic storefront system. "We wanted to make something simple that still had a design character sympathetic to the garage facade." To create a similar sense of animation, they slightly cantilevered each floor and utilized glass panes of different widths and opacities. IwamotoScott completed work on the office tower through design development; TimHaahs took the reigns when it came to detailing and beyond. Part of why IwamotoScott was particularly eager to design the southeast corner of City View Garage was that it is the portion of the structure directly facing the heart of the Miami Design District. The developers' vision for the neighborhood is "such an ambitious plan overall," said Iwamoto. It is a vision that is rapidly coming to fruition, as she herself has witnessed first-hand. "From the time we started work on the project to when it wasn't even 100 percent complete, the area was transformed," she said. "That's really exciting."
Marc Jacobs flagship store features a tripartite facade of aluminum, tile, and glass.Commissioned to design Marc Jacobs' flagship Tokyo store, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects' first order of business was to rectify the desire for an iconic urban presence with strict local regulations. To make the 2,800-square-meter shop more visible from nearby Omotesando Street, the architects took advantage of a loophole in the building code that allowed them to double the height of the structure as long as the top half was not occupiable. The catch was that the code required a 500-millimeter gap between the occupiable and non-occupiable spaces. "Our first strategy was to create a louvered facade system that would disguise [the divide]," recalled principal Stephan Jaklitsch. But after an afternoon walk through the Imperial gardens, they reversed course. "We were inspired by the vernacular architecture," said project architect Jonathan Kirk. "We wanted to somehow utilize the language of proportions, but also the materiality within that experience. Rather than trying to create something that was monolithic, we began to look at different materials for each of the building's components." The result, called Tōrō Ishi Ku (lantern-rock-void), makes its mark on the city with a tripartite facade in punched aluminum, bespoke tile, and glass. The top, non-occupiable half of the store is wrapped in stamped aluminum panels. Jaklitsch came up with the idea of a patterned two-dimensional facade after a trip to Prague Castle. "There was a smooth facade, but it employed a visual trick to deliver an illusion of depth," he said. "We were in a sense doing the same thing [in Tokyo]. It looks like a quilted facade, and appears to wrap around seamlessly." The texture of small punched holes was derived from a method of fabrication common throughout Tokyo. Behind the aluminum, the architects installed a fabric scrim that in turn reflects light from a series of LEDs, so that the upper portion of the building—the tōrō, or lantern—glows at night. A second optical illusion concerns the size of the aluminum panels themselves. Each large rectangular aluminum panel in fact comprises four separate aluminum pieces bolted together. Deep reveal seams between each four-part component result from turning the edges over to create rigidity, and also allow for thermal expansion and movement during seismic activity. "What ends up looking very simple in presentation is actually quite complex," said Kirk. Jaklitsch/Gardner defined the central portion of the building—the ishi, or "rock" containing a ready-to-wear showroom—with an opaque rain screen of bespoke tile. The building falls within a fire zone, so the architects were restricted to either fire glass or a non-combustible material. "Because it was also a more private program, and because we were dealing with various conditions in the adjacent buildings, we clad the entire thing in porcelain tile," explained Kirk. The sole exceptions are a single window on each of the building's east and west faces. The blade-shaped tiles were made from molds with a score joint in the middle. Each larger component was broken in two to create bespoke texturing along two edges; the half-tiles were then randomized and arranged in offset rows to form an interlocking pattern at the building's corners. The architects had originally intended to adhere the tile directly to the second floor's extruded concrete exterior, but the porcelain proved too heavy. Instead, they worked with the manufacturer to develop a custom fixing solution, in which the tiles are held off the wall by a series of metal studs. As a result, said Kirk, "the tiles can appear continuous across the concrete panels, which have seams about every three feet. The tiles are independent of the seams because the mounting brackets aren't affected by them." Like the aluminum panels above, the tiles are designed to move freely in case of an earthquake. Tōrō Ishi Ku's "void"—its ground-floor display room—is a transparent glass box. "We went through a number of different studies to get the proportions of the first and second floor just right," said Jaklitsch. The architects discovered that by restricting the height to three meters, they could eliminate the need for anchoring fins, thus increasing the sense of openness to the surrounding buildings. The feeling of continuity between inside and out is further emphasized by the use of honed granite for both the interior floor and the surrounding sidewalks. In this case, Jaklitsch/Gardner's sleight-of-hand worked too well. After several pedestrians collided with the glass, the architects modified the design by applying a subtle vertical striping to the exterior glass at eye level. One final consideration helped shape the shop's unique envelope: the rapidity with which the surrounding built environment is changing. The life expectancy of structures in the area averages only 26 years, explained Jaklitsch. Even as they were designing Tōrō Ishi Ku, the building across the street was torn down. "It became a matter of balancing the massing with this transitional zone between the commercial and residential districts," he said. "We were trying to anticipate the next three chess moves in this urban game."
Folded aluminum panels deliver the illusion of movement to passersby.During their recent expansion, Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis approached Urbana Studio with an unusual request. The hospital wanted the Los Angeles-based art and architecture firm to design an interactive facade for a recently completed parking structure. "With Indianapolis' really extreme weather patterns, we gave a lot of thought to: how can we make something that's interactive but won't be broken in a year?" said Urbana principal Rob Ley. "Unfortunately, the history of kinetic facades teaches us that that they can become a maintenance nightmare." Urbana's solution was to turn the relationship between movement and the object on its head. Though the aluminum facade, titled May September, is itself static, it appears to morph and change color as the viewer walks or drives by. May September—a semi-transparent rectangular wall comprising 7,000 angled aluminum panels—was inspired in part by Ley's interest in camouflage, and specifically active camouflage. "I wanted to take that on more in a passive way than an active way," he said. The designers set out to create something like a lenticular image, which seems to shift or jump into three dimensions as the angle of view changes. "Could we make something where the pieces themselves don't move, but we recognize that the people in front of it will be moving?" asked Ley. Urbana Studio dedicated six months to the design before sending it to fabrication. The first half of the work was digital, primarily using Rhino and Grasshopper as well as software the designers wrote themselves in Processing. The team spent a lot of time on color. "The idea was to find two colors that would have a good contrast, and that maybe don't exist at all in Indianapolis," said Ley. The final scheme, which pairs deep blue with golden yellow, drew on the work of local landscape artist T.C. Steele. After building renderings and animations on the computer, the firm constructed mockups to check their assumptions. The unique site conditions influenced both the choice of material—aluminum—and the placement of the panels. "It had to be very lightweight, because it was going on a structure that wasn't engineered to have anything like this on it," said Ley. The designers also had to contend with the natural movement of the garage, and wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour. "It doesn't seem that interesting, but when the entire project is basically making sails, the wind issue is counterintuitive to what you're doing," said Ley. Indianapolis Fabrications fabricated and installed the facade. "We'd worked to pare the design down to be very modular, so there would be no waste materials," said Ley. "We also worked out a system that would look like there's an infinite number of variations of angles, but in the end there are only three. We're faking a lot of variability with a system that doesn't have that many possibilities." Urbana Studio also designed a custom aluminum extrusion so that the bolts—three per panel, or 21,000 in total—could slide into the facade's vertical structural elements without the use of a drill. "It allowed us to have this very erratic placement of elements without having thousands of holes to verify," explained Ley. Indianapolis Fabrications assembled the facade off site in 10 by 26 foot sections. The size of the pieces was dictated by factors including the width of the street, the overhang on the existing structure, and the wind resistance each component would face as it was lifted into place. Ley was pleasantly surprised by the interest May September generated among other would-be garage designers. "There are a lot of parking garages out there," he said. "Usually they're very much an appliance. As an archetype, the parking structure is not very interesting, but everyone's anticipating that they're not going away." As for his own firm, Ley would welcome another commission for a parking structure—particularly one that allowed him to work from the ground up. "I enjoyed dealing with a window treatment," he said. "But it would be nice to be involved earlier on, to be able to pursue it in a more holistic way."
An aluminum rain screen and locally-sourced brick articulate a two-part program.The Brook, developed by Common Ground and designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects, is part of a new wave of affordable housing communities popping up all over the United States. Unlike the public housing projects of the mid-twentieth century, which focused exclusively on housing and tended to suffer from a lack of routine maintenance, The Brook, located in the Bronx, combines apartments and support services under one roof. This duality is manifested in the envelope’s contrasting material palette—dark grey brick for the residential spaces, raw aluminum over the community facilities. “The idea of the exterior was to symbolize, as well as reflect, the internal program of Common Ground as supportive housing,” said Alexander Gorlin. “It’s inspired in part by Le Corbusier and his idea of expressing the program on the facade, and expressing the public functions as a means of interrupting a repetitive facade." The Brook’s communal areas, which are clustered at the corner of the 92,000-square-foot, six-story building, are marked on the exterior by ES Tolga Dry Seal System aluminum panels from Allied Metal. In addition to articulating the change in program, the metal facade “represents coming together, creating a landmark for the neighborhood as well,” said Gorlin, who noted that Common Ground “liked from the beginning marking the corner as a special symbolic place.” The metal-clad corner also functions “urbanistically, to break the building into three parts, break down its scale,” he explained. A series of inset terraces interrupt the grey aluminum walls with splashes of red. “At one level it’s a bright color to be cheerful and optimistic,” said Gorlin. “In China, red is a symbol of good luck. It also symbolizes the heart of the program and the community.” The Brook’s 190 studio apartments are distributed to either side of the community facilities, along wings punctuated with square and rectangular windows. “We decided to vary the window placement so it would create a more lively asymmetrical pattern. It’s not just a simple grid,” said Gorlin. The designers clad the housing areas in locally sourced dark grey brick. “Brick is a very noble, ancient material,” observed Gorlin. As a good insulator, it also contributes to the building’s LEED Silver status. Other sustainability strategies include a green roof, a special boiler system, building management technology that turns off the lights when a room is not in use, and the use of recycled and non-offgassing materials. The Brook was erected on a vacant lot in a neighborhood once known for pervasive blight. Early in the design process, said Gorlin, the architects and developers discussed installing bars over the lower windows. “It was determined very consciously not to do it, even though there’s glass on the corner,” he explained. “We decided not to put bars up or make it look in any way prison-like. In fact, by not doing so it’s been maintained in perfect shape. People in the neighborhood think it’s a high-end condo.” Gorlin calls Common Ground “a miraculous kind of client in terms of what they do and the manner in which they deal with the community.” The Brook, he said, represents a new approach not just to affordable housing, but to homelessness. “To actually build permanent housing for homeless people” is a unique opportunity, he said. “It’s not just a shelter, but a place to start over in life.”
Parallel facade systems in contrasting materials mark the edge of development on a reimagined campus.The new Rutgers Business School in Piscataway, New Jersey, is more than a collection of classrooms and offices. The building, designed by TEN Arquitectos, is a linchpin of the university’s Livingston campus, reconceived as an urban center for graduate studies and continuing education. “It established a frame,” said project manager James Carse, whose firm created a vision plan for the campus starting in the late 2000s. “We were interested in really marking the edge of campus to motivate future development to respect the campus boundary, rather than allowing or suggesting that this was a pervasive sprawl. We wanted to make sure this would set a pattern where infill would happen.” The Rutgers Business School’s tripartite envelope reinforces the distinction between outside and inside. While the sides of the building facing the boundary line are enclosed in folded anodized aluminum panels, the glass curtain walls opposite create a visual dialogue with the rest of campus. In TEN Arquitectos’ early designs, the difference between the building’s outer and inner surfaces was not so stark. “We initially thought of [the entire envelope] as being more open,” said Carse. But budget constraints combined with university requirements regarding glazing in classrooms to suggest that the architects move away from an all-glass enclosure. “There was an ability to deploy the curtain wall over only a certain amount of the building in a responsible way,” said Carse. “We let the inside push back against the outside and suggest that this be more solid.” At the same time, explained Carse, “we didn’t want it to feel unchanging and heavy.” Working with Front Inc., TEN Arquitectos designed an anodized aluminum rain screen system, manufactured by Mohawk Metal Manufacturing & Sales, that incorporates an apparently random fold pattern to provide texture. (Thorton Tomasetti provided additional consulting and inspection services during construction.) After making aesthetic modifications in Rhino and 3ds Max, the architects ran their digital model through eQUEST energy analysis software to determine an angle of inclination that would prevent snow from accumulating on the folds. They came up with four standard dimensions that could be combined for a varied effect. “It’s a pretty amazing condition that’s been created with the variegated folded panels that face Avenue E and preserve and pick up the western sunlight as the sun sets,” said Carse. “The building changes throughout the day and picks up texture from its surroundings. The anodized aluminum plays off that nature of change and creates a softer facade than you’d expect from the use of metal itself.” The campus-facing sides of the building feature frit glass curtain walls fabricated by Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall Co. (Jangho) with glass from Xinyi Glass Holdings Limited. “We used the fritted glass to meet the solar performance that we were going for without completely exposing them,” said Carse, who noted that the walls appear nearly transparent at dusk and later, when the interior lights are on. “That’s part of the nature of the building,” he said. “The business school itself has classes going from around 8:30 a.m. until about 10 p.m., so the daily life is not just during the day. The building is really alive during those times and we wanted to make that evident.” During the day, the frit glass facade’s extra-wide mullions maximize the amount of daylight that filters into the offices and classrooms. The third component of the Rutgers Business School envelope is a transparent glass curtain wall introduced between the two primary facade systems. Besides serving as an intermediary between the anodized aluminum and frit glass surfaces, the transparent glass elements mark possible points of connection to future buildings as the campus continues to densify. “It allowed us infill,” said Carse. “This project served as a gateway building literally and figuratively,” said Carse. Cars entering campus from Route 18 pass directly through the Rutgers Business School building, its upper stories perched on canted columns. Though designed to indicate the campus’s outside edge—the end of development—the structure’s vital facade simultaneously signals a beginning, a freshly urban approach to campus design within a former suburban stronghold.
Sustainability and high design meet in Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects' affordable housing complex.Designing a sustainable building on a budget is tricky enough. But for the Merritt Crossing senior housing complex in Oakland, California, non-profit developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates upped the ante, asking Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects to follow not one but two green-building ratings systems. "They wanted to push the envelope of what they typically do and decided to pursue not only the LEED rating, but also the GreenPoint system," said principal Richard Stacy. "So we actually did both, which is kind of crazy." Wrapped in a colorful cement-composite rain screen system punctuated by high performance windows, Merritt Crossing achieved LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Pilot Program Platinum and earned 206 points on the Build-It-Green GreenPoint scale. The building was also the first Energy Star Rated multi-family residence in California, and was awarded 104 points by Bay-Friendly Landscaping. Merritt Crossing’s 70 apartments serve low-income seniors with incomes between 30 and 50 percent of the area median. More than half of the units are reserved for residents at risk of homelessness or living with HIV/AIDS. Stacy explains that in the context of affordable housing, sustainability means two things. The first is quality of life for the residents, "the sorts of things that have a direct benefit to the people living there," such as natural daylighting and indoor air quality. The second is energy efficiency. "Both non-profits and [their] residents have limited financial capabilities," said Stacy. "The one time they have funding for that kind of thing is when they’re building a building. So we focused a lot on the building envelope in terms of energy efficiency. At the same time, we wanted to have ample daylight and controlled ventilation.” Finding themselves with unused contingency funds during construction Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects upgraded the exterior skin to a rain screen system of SWISSPEARL cement composite. "We worked pretty closely with the SWISSPEARL company," said Stacy, who noted that Merritt Crossing may be the first building in the United States to use the system. Though the panels are installed like lap siding they offer "the benefits of a rain screen in terms of cooling and waterproofing issues," he explained. To accommodate the thicker skin, window manufacturer Torrance Aluminum designed custom trim pieces, which "had the added benefit of giving us the appearance of deeply recessed windows," said Stacy. Insulation was a special concern for the architects, both because Merritt Crossing was built using metal frame construction, and to minimize air infiltration in keeping with the green ratings systems. The building’s exterior walls are wrapped in 1-inch-thick high performance polyiso insulation from Dow Corning with a Grace Perm-A-Barrier VPS vapor permeable membrane. "As a result we ended up with a very, very tight building from an air insulation standpoint, which means you have to pay more attention to air ventilation," said Stacy. To compensate, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ mechanical engineers designed a special air filtration system for the building’s roof, complete with built-in HEPA filters. The building’s southwest facade faces a freeway, presenting potential noise and privacy issues in addition to exposure to the western sun. "We did a highly layered facade on that [side] where the actual exterior wall is back three to four feet from another screen wall," said Stacy. The outer wall "is a combination of typical wall assembly as well as GreenScreen panels that form a webbing of open areas and solid areas that help with sunshading as well as acoustical [dampening] and privacy." Greenery in balcony planters will eventually grow up and over the screens. On the ground floor, the garage is also enclosed in GreenScreen trellising, to enhance pedestrians’ view without sacrificing ventilation. Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ Merritt Crossing proves that affordable housing does not have to look institutional. The facade’s vibrant colors—green on the northeast elevation, red on the southwest—and playful punched texture pay homage to the neighborhood’s patchwork of architectural styles and building uses. The first major building in the planned redevelopment of the area around the Lake Merritt BART regional transit station, Merritt Crossing sets the bar high for future developments.
Ribbons of laser-cut metal lamellas envelop a glass curtain wall.J. MAYER H. Architects designed the sculptural anodized aluminum facade of JOH3, a Berlin apartment building located near both the Friedrichstrasße and Museum Island, as a contemporary echo of its historic neighbors. “The project is located in an old part of Berlin, where there are lots of facades with stucco detail,” said project architect Hans Schneider. “We tried to do something as rich with a new design, something like Jugendstil [the German Art Deco movement] but in a modern translation.” The architects settled on floor-to-ceiling glass wrapped in undulating ribbons of laser-cut aluminum lamellas. They explored the general shape using a physical model, but completed the bulk of the design work in Rhino. Early on, said Schneider, the aluminum tubes that give the envelope its texture “were a bit thicker, a different shape,” but had to be adjusted to trim down the cost of materials. From these basic components, J. MAYER H. Architects made strategic subtractions to deliver a three-dimensional effect. “In the beginning there are tubes, and then we cut out the shapes of the lamellas always different,” explained Schneider. “There are nice interferences when you cut it.” In addition to providing aesthetic interest, said Schneider, “these lamellas protect the interior from the outside without really closing it up.” From straight on, the facade is transparent. From other angles, the overlapping aluminum blades produce varying degrees of opacity. Thus the apartment’s occupants benefit from daylighting without sacrificing privacy. “It’s still quite light, that was the idea,” said Schneider, “to have a really light building in the city but still have [protection].” As well as responding to the stucco detail on the older buildings nearby, JOH3’s organic facade, which was manufactured by Rupert App GmbH+Co. (app) and WICONA and installed by app, draws on the idea of incorporating landscape into the city. This theme amplified in the building’s interior courtyard, where the metal ribbons move in and out of plane to accommodate balconies overlooking a grassy circle. It is also present in the interior. “The floor plans don’t have these rectangular rooms, it’s all more organic,” said Schneider. The balconies and folding windows by Saint-Gobain Glass providing seamless transitions from inside to outside, while each apartment’s lounge is below grade, “so you have different levels, types [of spaces] to make it more like landscape.” The dropped floor from the apartment above is visible in the ceiling below. “That’s also very interesting,” said Schneider, “because you can feel how the different stories merge together.” JOH3’s facade initially drew skepticism from some Berliners, who pressed for a more traditional stucco design. “We had to discuss [it] several times with the city, of course, and especially with the preservation people. There were quite a lot of discussions about color, shape, and material,” said Schneider. But the lamellas, which enact historic and natural references in modern materials, eventually won over the naysayers. “They liked the design totally in the end.”