Posts tagged with "Arizona":

Boom or Bust for Phoenix’s Warehouse District?

According to a recent article on azcentral.com, Phoenix’s Warehouse District is in the midst of a renaissance. Or is it? The man behind several adaptive reuse projects in the neighborhood says not so fast. “It’s like every five years someone gets excited about it and writes the same article,” said developer Michael Levine. While he admits there’s been an uptick in interest in the mid-century industrial buildings, he doubts his fellow landowners’ motives. “If you give them enough money...they’d have the [buildings] demolished,” he said. Levine grew up in Brooklyn and attended Parsons, where he considered becoming an architectural designer before a retrospective on the work of Gordon Matta Clark convinced him to switch to art. “I wanted to get my hands dirty,” said Levine. After college, Levine moved to Phoenix, doing all kinds of work, from residential contracting to building visual displays and starting an art gallery. When he began manufacturing for multinational companies, he needed a larger workspace, and moved into his first warehouse. “Basically the buildings are like big three-dimensional sculptures,” said Levine. Eventually, the buildings themselves became Levine’s subjects. He renovated his first warehouse in 1992, his second in 1999. Phoenix, it turns out, is a particularly difficult place to be a champion for adaptive reuse. For one thing, the city didn’t have that many warehouses to begin with. “The best warehouse in Phoenix would be the worst in Detroit,” observed Levine. In addition, said Levine, the city’s reluctance to embrace the International Building Code combined with its early adoption of ADA standards to make it “almost impossible to save a building.” Even a recent preservation program hasn’t done as much as advocates might have hoped for the Warehouse District. In 2006, the city, aware that its pre–World War II building stock was rapidly dwindling, launched a special category of grants (funded through the city’s bond program) specifically for preserving warehouses. “It hasn’t been quite as successful as we’d hoped, but it hasn’t been a complete failure,” said Kevin Weight of the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office. The office had hoped there might be another bond issue, but then the recession hit. “We really don’t have the incentives to offer that we did before, so that’s part of why it’s not moving as quickly as we’d like,” said Weight. According to Levine, the problem is that would-be renovators have to compete with new construction. “The real story of the Warehouse District is it’s the cheapest land in town,” he said. Preservationists have scored a few big wins, as in 2007, when a lawsuit spared the Sun Mercantile Building (an E.W. Bacon-designed warehouse built in 1929) from a  condo project. But the trend still seems to favor new over old. “They demolish 10, 13 buildings, then save one building,” said Levine. “It’s been like tokenism.” There are a few bright spots in the Warehouse District’s recent history, including several of Levine’s projects: 605 E. Grant Street (1917), originally owned by the Southwest Cotton Company; The Duce (525 S. Central Ave, 1928), built for Anchor Manufacturing Company; and Bentley Projects (215 E. Grant Street, 1918), first occupied by Bell Laundry. Then there’s 22 E. Jackson Street, the 1930 Arizona Hardware Supply Company building renovated by Dudley Ventures. A number of additional warehouse buildings have been listed on the city’s register of historic buildings. Levine cites the recent relocation of several of Arizona State University School of Art graduate student buildings to his 605 E. Grant Street. “The fine artists get it...ASU has finally gotten it,” said Levine, though he went on to express dismay at an ASU urban planning professor’s embrace of a nearby luxury-apartments project. That said, the Warehouse District renaissance doesn’t yet seem to have reached the tipping point. The city’s out of money to assist preservationists, at least for now. And Levine thinks that some of the recent interest in the neighborhood may be a passing craze. “However much they love it, unfortunately it’s a fashion thing to these people,” said Levine. “It’s really cool to be in a brick building...For me, I really want these buildings to be around for another 100 years.”

Sonoran Desert Vernacular by CO Architects

Red-rock mountains and the saguaro cactus inspired the Health Sciences Education Building's rippling copper facade.

Downtown Phoenix, observed CO Architects’ Arnold Swanborn, looks a lot like downtown Minneapolis. That feels wrong, given the two cities’ contrasting environments. So when it came to designing the Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB) at Phoenix Biomedical Campus (which won honorable mention for facades in AN’s Best of Design Awards), CO Architects went back to nature—to the Sonoran Desert in particular. “We’re building in a desert. We really, in the outset, wanted to understand what it’s like to build in a desert environment, to really go back and investigate the people who first moved there, or even some of the [American] Indians who lived [there],” said Swanborn. “The skin is really a response to some of the lessons we learned from going out to the desert, being out there and seeing how plants and animals adapted to that environment.” HSEB’s undulating envelope, comprising 5,972 copper panels and more than 10,000 copper parts, echoes two of the defining features of the Arizona desert. First is the omnipresent saguaro cactus, which evolved a folded skin as a self-shading structure. Second is the layered soil of the nearby mountains. “[T]he [building’s] skin folds in a way that’s similar to the saguaro cactus,” explained Swanborn. “How we emulate the mountains beyond is by creating a shadow pattern by folding and articulating the metal panels.” Copper was a natural choice for the exterior cladding. HSEB went up during the recession, said Swanborn, “when everyone was very sensitive to making sure everything was local.” Copper is one of Arizona’s “five C’s”: copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate. In addition, copper is highly conductive, meaning it responds quickly to the region’s aggressive swings in temperature. “Because it’s a rain screen technology we innovated into a sunscreen, there’s a space between the copper skin and building envelope,” said Swanborn. “There’s a 2 ½- or 3-inch air cavity that essentially acts as a chimney. The air gets superheated, and it essentially creates a vertical convection effect, which wicks heat away from the building.” On a 100-degree day, the copper skin keeps the interior a (relatively) cool 70. Finally, copper ages well. “Over time it patinas beautifully,” said Swanborn. “It’s easy to take care of; it kind of takes care of itself.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Kovach Building Enclosures
  • Architects CO Architects, Ayers Saint Gross (Associate Architect)
  • Consultants Transsolar (Climate Engineering)
  • Location Phoenix
  • Date of Completion 2012
  • System copper rain screen with sunshades and PTFE canopy
  • Products Kovach Building Enclosures custom copper panels and sunshades, Trenwyth Industries (Oldcastle) Trendstone ground face masonry units, Viracon VNE1-63 glass
Phoenix’s climate informed every aspect of the exterior design, starting with the massing. CO Architects worked with Transsolar to determine a shape that would maximize shading. The building is arranged around a narrow courtyard running from east to west, which the architects modeled on the Sonoran desert’s slot canyons. The courtyard is topped with a polytetrafluroethylene (PTFE) shading structure, which “allows daylight to filter through—sort of like a big lightbulb,” said Swanborn. “It filters, diffuses, and bounces off the interior’s light-colored walls.” The courtyard walls are faced in Trendstone ground face masonry units by Trenwyth, a light block rain screen used as a veneer. The courtyard helps bring light to HSEB’s east and west faces, which CO Architects left windowless in order to reduce thermal gain. On the south side of the building, they installed cantilevered copper sunshades over the windows. Vertical copper fins on the north elevation shade occupants from the rising and setting sun. Like the building’s copper cladding, the sunshades and fins were fabricated by Kovach. To open the ground floor on the west end of the building to the adjacent campus green, CO Architects took a cue from early desert dwellers. “When the [American Indians] first settled, they built underneath these carved rock formations, which again becomes self-shading,” Swanborn. The ground floor is glazed, but set back under the building to reduce direct exposure to the sun. Swanborn relished the challenge the joint University of Arizona/Northern Arizona University project provided. “To me the story’s really about the idea of creating a new urban vernacular for the desert,” he said. “The more restricted things become, [the more] architects have to become inventive. The skin of the building is really a pointer to that: it’s inventive, it’s innovative. I think it’s very fitting for that area.”

Restoring Wright: A Preservation Master Plan for Taliesin West

After almost eight decades of constant use, Taliesin West is ready for a makeover. The Scottsdale, Arizona site was Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, studio, and architecture school. Today, the campus houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and is also a popular tourist destination, with over 100,000 visitors annually. Now, time, climate, and footsteps have taken their toll on the landmark. A combination of heavy use and the complex's desert environment have left Taliesin West in need of significant restoration, as well as accessibility, sustainability, and safety upgrades. As a first step towards remaking Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation has selected Chicago firm Harboe Architects to prepare a preservation master plan of the site. “[T. Gunny] Harboe and his firm rose to the top of a truly extraordinary field,” Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation CEO and President Sean Malone said. The selection committee—which included Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation staff leadership, its Preservation Committee, and a Preservation Oversight Committee made up of five outside experts—chose Harboe Architects from among more than forty contenders. “Harboe had such a remarkable understanding of Wright’s work and this particular project,” Malone said. Harboe  will undertake a year-long study of Taliesin West, a National Historic Landmark site constructed between 1937 and 1959, to determine the scope of the restoration (including cost and timeline). Through research, multiple site visits, and a cultural and structural history of the location, the preservation team will answer two questions: what needs to be restored and why. “Why is a really exciting question,” Malone explained. “Part of the project is [defining a] preservation philosophy. Then once we make those decisions, that’s going to drive the decision about how.” Besides Harboe, the team also includes Michael Henry, of Watson and Henry Associates, and Dorothy Krotzer, of Building Conservation Associates. Harboe’s team faces particular challenges in preserving a site that was never meant to be static. “Taliesin West is more complicated than a lot of sites because change over time was an inherent part of the story,” Malone said. Unlike other Wright sites (except Taliesin, the architect’s Wisconsin home and studio), the Scottsdale campus was not built for one particular time. Instead, it was designed as a laboratory, a space within which ideas about architecture could develop and change. “It’s a living place. Its evolution is part of its history,” Malone said.