The West Hollywood Planning Commission (WHPC) has approved a small-scale, 11-unit apartment building designed by Culver City-based R&A Architecture+Design. The project is designed as an intimate courtyard apartment complex, with a series of two- and three-bedroom units organized around a central, shared open space. The dispersed masses of the complex are clad in a variety of surface materials, including corrugated sheets of aluminum, vertically-oriented wood siding, and expanses of glass. The more solid sections of the building are studded with punched openings that signal windows, doorways, and passageways into the courtyard in a manner that corresponds to the surrounding low-level density of the neighborhood. Units in the project average 1,585-square feet in size, according to a press release, and are connected to various types of outdoor spaces, including rooftop gardens and balconies. The project is designed to facilitate natural cross-ventilation via the courtyard, exterior staircases, and unit doors that are clad in louvers and screens. The units are also designed with concrete floors throughout that will act as thermal massing for each home. Christian Robert, principal at R&A explained the contextual massing of the project in a press release, saying, “(the) segmented massing respects the scale of nearby homes. As architects, we thoughtfully pay attention to the context and work to maintain the community spirit.” The intense contextual focus of the project is no mistake on the part of the designers, as the project comes on the heels of several controversial developments in the city, like the Gehry Associates-designed 8150 Sunset project. Recent, density-oriented projects have rankled locals in the densifying municipality and across the Los Angeles region. Los Angeles voters recently defeated a controversial and anti-development measure that sought to curb new housing production in the city, but a weariness toward dense development has taken root nonetheless. Construction on the R&A Design project is scheduled to begin spring 2018.
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In downtown Kansas City, the former Pickwick Plaza Hotel is currently being remade into an apartment building. Built in 1930, the streamline Gothic structure was a popular destination for County Judge Harry S. Truman prior to his presidency. The building, aside from being a hotel, also offered transit, office, and commercial services. Now, Helix Architecture + Design, with the backing of developers Gold Crown Properties, is transforming the vacant building into market-rate apartments while retaining its mixed-use history: the building will feature "hospitality rooms," street level retail shopping, laundry, recreation/workout facilities, parking garage, and a pool. According to the architects, the majority of the apartments are due to be one bedrooms, each covering approximately 500 square feet. Repairs to clock which dominates the arcade and former bus terminal will also be made as part of the project. Speaking to the Kansas City Star, Thomas Smith, President of Gold Crown Properties, said on July 11 this year that the renovation was "about 50-percent complete." The developer has reportedly been chasing the project since 2009. “It’s had many challenges, but it’s too worth it,” Smith said in 2013. “This building has fascinated me from the get-go." Before construction began, the building had been subject to vandalism while also suffering damage from fire in 1996. Under the name Royal Towers, the building had served as a development for government-assisted housing for the elderly, but closed in 2009. Since Smith began his pursuit of the property, the scheme's price has risen significantly from an initial estimate of $46 million to $65 million. “Up on the top floor of the garage, we ran into a $5 million surprise,” said Smith. “The major structural repairs stretched our already stretched budget.” 45 housing units are due to be available from November while the South towers will come onto the market March 2017, offering more apartments, a large glass-encased saltwater pool as well as commercial space and an Easterly view of Ilus Davis Park. So far the project has garnered positive responses. Jan Beately of Historic Kansas City said that even those who were resident "architecture junkies" weren't quite aware of the Pickwick hotel's architectural significance before plans were revealed to retain its former glory.
Unbroken bands of window walls sit beyond an exterior concrete structural frame.Completed earlier this year, a new market rate rental building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side by Handel Architects features a striking exposed cast-in-place concrete diagrid “exoskeleton” structure. The system is designed in response to required zoning code setbacks that restrict building area to a mere 35’ wide at times. The project, named after it’s address at 170 Amsterdam, is located two blocks north of Lincoln Center, situated between two greenspaces – Central Park and the Lincoln Tower superblock – via 68th Street. The lobby is a prominent glassy space containing a mix of community programs, formally and programmatically connecting the two sides of the building together, while abstracted tree-like columns punctuate the building envelope. Frank Fusaro, Partner at Handel Architects, says the use of exposed architectural concrete is a contextual response to its location between the muscular buildings of Lower Amsterdam, where Lincoln Center resides, and the heaviness of classic Upper West Side apartment buildings. “LaGuardia High Schools exposed concrete, MLK School’s corten metal and glass skin wrapped around an opaque core, and the heavily ornate Beaux-Arts exterior of the Dorilton with its quoining, ironwork, brackets, cartouches, oriels and other details all share something in common: these are tough, robust and bold buildings.” Aside from the contextual benefits to exposing a concrete system, the architects noted several benefits to a structural exoskeleton system, contributing to the client’s full support from nearly the beginning of the project. The most significant benefits to the building envelope design were seen when interior floor area was able to be maximized. The structural system of the building resembles a shell structure, achieving high stiffness from an exterior diagrid of columns tied together with repetitive structural floor slabs. This stiffness allows for no shear walls to be required in the core of the building and relatively few interior columns. By moving the columns to the outside of the building, the city’s zoning department allowed for the floor area of the building to be measured to the face of the window wall, rather than the face of the structure. This allowed the architects to add an entire extra floor of program to the building. Additionally, the depth of the facade assembly acts as a brise soleil, passively helping to manage a less-than-ideal solar orientation (unavoidable due to the city grid and buildable area on site). Beyond the columns, a continuous band of window units, spanning from floor to ceiling, establishes the building’s thermal envelope. The windows feature a high performance low e coating to allow for high levels of transparency without sacrificing solar performance. Fusaro says the unbroken line of windows in the apartment units was essential: “The studios are sized just over 400 square feet, so having an exterior wall of glass makes the units feel much larger.” An extremely dense mix of concrete allows for the smooth finish and eliminates voids. The use of less rebar permits a pump tube to be placed in the column and minimizes vibration. Slag was added to the mix to make the color of the concrete more like limestone. Installation of the building envelope after the concrete was poured occurred surprisingly quickly, at a rate of about one floor per week, adding value to the system. The design of the diagrid was optimized to reduce the quantity of fabricating costly “X” forms by shifting the grid on a diagonal axis. The success of 170 Amsterdam has led Handel Architects to further work with exposed architectural cast in place concrete. Most notably, in the Upper West Side, another market rate rental building is under construction currently. For Fusaro, the elegance of exposed concrete is activated with an underlying connection to nature: “I love the organic nature of concrete, you can add or subtract a little of this or that and make it into something entirely different.” Handel Architects: Partner in Charge/Design Principal; Frank Fusaro Project Manager; Honyi Wang Design Team; Alan Noah-Navarro, Elga Killinger, Shridhuli Solanki, Rinaldo Perez, Ren Zhong Huang, Jessica Kuo, Jordan Young, Shujian Jian, Hong Min Kim, Ade Herkarisma, Ana Untiveros-Ferrel
French designer Maison Edouard François has presented designs for The Gardens of Anfa, a project consisting of three residential towers, a low-rise office building, and several ancillary structures all situated within a large plot of parkland in Morroco. The four largest components of the design are clad in various flowers that pour down curved, irregular facades. The peripheral buildings are rectilinear and appear largely free of the organic attire found on their taller neighbors. Washingtonia palms populate the innermost portion of the complex, a flatland bordered on four sides by the aforementioned towers. The apartments feature 360-degree balconies surrounded by fencing rendered in Arabic geometric patterning. White and jasmine bougainvilleas cover much of their exteriors in contrast to the more vibrant hues found in the vegetal coating of the office building. The latter is a squatter rendition of the same basic form of the residences. This piazza is enclosed by a ring of smaller square buildings also to act as housing. These jigsaw structures are interspersed by rectangular protrusions that lend a decidedly tetris-like quality to the facades. Geometric apertures continue the Arabesque motifs found in the high-rises. Underground parking will be tucked away beneath this Moroccan Eden. The Gardens, which are set to be completed in 2016–2017, are not Edouard François' first dalliance into the union of flora and verticality. Round up the usual vegetal towers.