University of Arkansas addition celebrates the future with a contemporary rewrite of Neoclassicism.As head of the architecture department and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell was uniquely qualified to oversee the renovation and expansion of the school's home, Vol Walker Hall. To unite the school's landscape architecture, architecture, and interior design departments under one roof for the first time, Blackwell's eponymous firm designed a contemporary west wing to mirror the east bar on the existing Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the 1930s as the university library. But the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—which tied for Building of the Year in AN's 2014 Best of Design Awards—is more than a container for 37,000 square feet of new studio, seminar, and office space. It is also a teaching tool, a lesson in the evolution of architectural technology writ in concrete, limestone, glass, steel, and zinc. "Our strategy was to create a counterweight to the existing building," explained Blackwell. Rather than a layered steel-frame construction, Marlon Blackwell Architect opted for a post-tensioned concrete structure to convey a sense of mass and volume. "We also wanted to demonstrate what you can do with new technology like post-tensioned concrete, such as introducing a cantilever and introducing a profile that has minimal columns in the spaces," he said. "All of that is a didactic tool for our students to contrast and compare with the load-bearing technology of the existing structure." The exterior of the Steven L. Anderson Design Center also reflects on changes to architectural practice during the last 80 years. "We really wanted to develop a strong profile of the building, in contrast to Vol Walker Hall," said Blackwell. He describes the effect as a figure-ground reversal: where in the older structure the mass of the building is the ground and the windows and ornament act as figure, in the new wing the mass is the figure and the fenestration the ground. To create what Blackwell terms a "condition of resonance" between the Design Center and Vol Walker Hall, the architects engaged Clarkson Consulting to develop an architectural concrete to match the color of a local Arkansas limestone no longer available. They echoed the Indiana limestone on the older wing with panels sourced from a quarry only 50 miles from the original. But instead of grouting the limestone cladding on the new wing, Blackwell chose a limestone rain screen system from Stone Panels. "That allows us to go much thinner but much larger," he said. "Again, we're using the same materials but showing how the advancement of technology allows for a different expression of architecture." The defining feature of the Design Center is the more than 200-foot-long glass and steel curtain wall on the western facade. Knowing that the western exposure would provide the only source of natural light for the new wing, the architects worked to balance the need for light against the threat of solar gain. To complement the existing building, they chose a fascia steel curtain wall custom-fabricated by local company L&L Metal Fabrication. With curtain wall consultants Heitmann & Associates, Blackwell developed a brise soleil comprising 3/4-inch by 18-inch frit glass fins, angled to filter sunlight into the Design Center's 43-foot-deep studios. "What we like about it, too, is that it's one big window," said Blackwell. "It allows it to feel as if we've cut a section right through the building. At night the entire facade becomes a beacon, allowing for a nice interface between the school of architecture and the rest of the community." Other details, including the monolithic concrete pours designed to lighten the Design Center's connection to the ground, and zinc cladding used on the top floor to sharpen the profile of the main body, continue the dialogue between the new structure and its Neoclassical neighbor. "There are a lot of little things that give a tautness to the expression of the new addition, and give it its own identity," said Blackwell. "But at the same time, one of the things we were faithful to was trying to analyze and uncover units of measure and proportion on the old building, and apply that to ours." Perhaps more importantly, the building works as a design school—and Blackwell would know. "There's certainly contrast on the outside," he said. "But there's an almost resonant seamlessness on the inside."
Posts tagged with "Arkansas":
Marlon Blackwell, architect and professor at the Fay Jones School of Architecture, and Steve Luoni, architect and director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, have unveiled a masterplan for converting Little Rock's Main Street into a cultural center. The plan titled, The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization will include a pedestrian promenade, outdoor furniture, LED lighting installations, rain gardens, affordable living-units for artists and a renovation of downtown buildings for mixed-use. Luoni notes that execution is expected to occur in phases. The first objective is to separate the district from the rest of Main Street by using original lighting—potentially made up of old city street lights and composed into a light art installation—distinct landscaping, and purpose-built architectural pavement. The second phase plans to anchor the site at the intersection of Capitol and Main Street with a central public square containing an outdoor amphitheater and large LED screen reminiscent of Times Square monitors. The third phase hopes to densify the perimeters of Main Street with trees, rain gardens, terraces and a pedestrian promenade. The fourth is the creation of the transit district in coordination with the Metroplan’s scheduled expansion proposals and new bike lanes. As the project gets going, Little Rock’s Mayor Mike Studola plans to use the city’s EPA grant to create smaller-scale demonstrations of the ideas presented in the masterplan. Although the plan is intended to place Little Rock on the map of towns with unique urban designs, execution relies heavily on private dollars. In order to receive funding the location would have to draw crowds as an art center and Luoni has already discussed receiving support from various visual arts, film, dance and music organizations including the Arkansas Repertory Theater and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The presentation of “The Creative Corridor” was held at the Arkansas Repertory Theater and made possible by a $150,000 Our Town Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Upon earning the NEA grant Luoni commented, “The project has the potential to be a national model for consolidating cultural arts functions—artist housing, production spaces, galleries and performance spaces—as a catalyst for sustained urban development in downtown. We are proud that the NEA recognizes this potential and has directed resources from its signature grant program for this project." As of yet, funding for the full completion of the proposal has not been determined but Mayor Studola, architect Luoni and architect Blackwell remain on board to see it through.
Walmart has been trying to expand into cities like New York and Washington, D.C. for a while now sparking debate about big box retail in urban centers along the way. To find space, Walmart will likely have to abandon the supercenter in favor of a more petite space, but slimming down to a mere 3,500 square feet sounds pretty extreme. Billed as the smallest Walmart in the world, the new store opened last Friday and shares space in a new mixed-use building with boutiques and a froyo shop and shoulders right up to the sidewalk rather than the ubiquitous parking lot of traditional big-box retail. Packed into the store's 3,500 square feet is a full-service pharmacy, replacing a recently closed campus pharmacy and general goods and groceries. (That's only 2% the size of a typical 185,000 square foot Supercenter!) If this a model that could work in urban areas around the country? Advertising Age speculates that the Walmart on Campus store could be a sign for a leaner, meaner Walmart of the future, citing CEO Bill Simon's calls for testing out new varieties of small stores. Could you be running down to the corner Walmart in years to come? Designed by Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture of Des Moines, Iowa and Amirmoez Foster Hailey Johnson Architects of Fayetteville, Arkansas, the new Garland Avenue Shops include the 30,000 square foot UA Bookstore along with 20,000 square feet of retail space, of which Walmart has taken 3,500. A slat-covered, 1,500 spot parking deck hovers above the retail space and a central courtyard with outdoor seating and bike racks faces away from the street. (More photos of the building on flickr.) [ Via Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, photo by Walter Lang. ]