Posts tagged with "Austin":

Threatened landscape: A civil rights landmark in Austin

When nine-year-old African American caddie Alvin Propps was arrested for playing golf at the newly desegregated Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas in 1950, it set off a firestorm that eventually made its way to the mayor’s office. As the first peacefully desegregated golf course in the former Confederate South during the Jim Crow era, the course became the center of controversy, but when the mayor’s office decided to drop the charges, it set a precedent, and Lions Municipal became open to African Americans from that day forward. However, the course is now threatened by private development after the City of Austin decided in 2011 to not renew the lease on the 1924 course just two miles west of the Texas state capitol. In 2019, it could be handed over to developers. “Historians searching for the impetus of the 'classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement,' preceding Brown v. Board in 1954 and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, have posited a 'long civil rights movement' that preceded those iconic struggles. In other words, Lions Municipal Golf Course is representative of the 'birth of the civil rights movement,” said Glenda Gilmore, the Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History at Yale University in a post by the Cultural Landscape Foundation. The city has floated the idea of preserving the clubhouse, but not the course, but many critics say that because the structure wasn’t part of the site when the desegregation happened, preserving the clubhouse alone is not enough. The Congressional Black Caucus has voiced support and measures to protect the course, and the Texas House of Representatives, the City of Austin, and Travis County, Texas have all passed resolutions acknowledging the historical importance of the site.

Can this affordable 3-D printed house address the world’s housing shortage?

At this year’s South by Southwest Festival (SXSW), Austin-based startup ICON unveiled the first residential permitted 3-D-printed house in the United States. ICON is partnered with the non-profit New Story, which has constructed homes for thousands of displaced residents across Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia. The young firm views their technology as an practical tool to address the sheltering needs of the approximately billion people on the planet that lack a home. The home was constructed with ICON’s Vulcan printer, a prototype developed specifically for the project. The printer is capable of assembling a single-story, 600 to 800-square-foot home in twelve to twenty-four hours, at a cost of $10,000 per unit. ICON hopes that ongoing research on the prototype will reduce the construction cost to under $4,000. According to the New Atlas, the firm will use the model home as its own office to properly gauge its performance. The unveiled 3-D-printed house consists of a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and porch, arranged around a modest 350-square-foot floor plan. Future models will include a kitchen and an additional bedroom and larger square-footage. The Vulcan uses a construction process similar to concrete slip forming, with a continuous flow of mortar guided along a pre-programmed path. Slip forming allows for the building up of concrete layers in rapid succession. While the Vulcan printer crafts the overall structure of the home, contractors are required for interior finishing and the construction of roofs and windows. However, Quartz reports that ICON is researching the capacity of robots to install windows and the 3-D fabrication of roofing units. As reported by The Verge, after material testing and necessary alterations to design, ICON will ship the Vulcan printer to El Salvador where it will be utilized in the construction of 100 homes in late-2019. While the Vulcan’s current efforts are devoted to the fabrication of houses in distressed regions, ICON does intend to introduce its technology to the US affordable housing housing market.

Ellsworth Kelly’s “chapel” of colored light is realized at UT Austin

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin has finished the construction of Austin, the last project of artist Ellsworth Kelly to be realized before his death at the end of 2015. Austin is Kelly’s first foray into architecture, and the T-shaped, secular sanctuary is flooded with multicolored light at every junction. The completion of Austin is the result of a $23 million campaign by the Blanton, after Kelly gifted the building’s design to the museum in 2015. The 2,715-square-foot, chapel-like building was conceived of as existing without a religious component, and its most prominent feature, multicolored, mouth-blown stained glass arrangements at each of the façades, splashes the interior with focused patterns. All of Austin, inside and out, focuses attention on Kelly’s use of colored grids. The curving exterior of the building is clad in limestone panels sourced from Alicante, Spain, while the floor of the surrounding plaza and connected interior are made of black granite. One of Kelly’s “Totems” will be on display inside, an 18-foot-tall sculptural form carved from salvaged 19th century redwood. Despite the piece’s professed areligious alignment, Kelly chose to adorn the interior walls with 14 40-inch-by-40-inch black-and-white marble panels which abstract the Stations of the Cross. The white marble comes from the same quarry in Carrera, Italy, from where Michelangelo sourced his marble, while the black marble is Belgian. In a press release, the Blanton described Austin as “an experience akin to visiting the Rothko and Matisse chapels, in Houston and Vence, France, respectively.” Drawing attention to the interplay between colored light, air, and heavier physical materials is Austin’s central concept. The building accomplishes this by varying the window orientations at every façade. On the south side is the “color grid,” a three-by-three lattice of square glass pieces, while the east façade’s “tumbling squares” takes those same pieces and rotates them around a circle, referencing the north transept rose window at Chartres Cathedral in Paris. The west façade’s “starburst” window elongates the tumbling squares into narrow streaks of color, not dissimilar to Apple’s spinning loading wheel. Austin sits adjacent to the Blanton and is surrounded by a blanket of green space, and officially opened to the public on February 18 alongside Form into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, an exhibition meant to explain Austin’s context in Kelly’s canon of work.

Austin’s new public library reflects the city’s transformation and energy

Austin’s new Central Public Library, designed by Lake|Flato with Shepley Bulfinch, opened last October. The 198,000-square-foot facility occupies a full city block adjacent to where Shoal Creek meets the Colorado River in the western part of downtown. Austin’s first residents settled here 180 years ago, and in the 20th-century municipal facilities like the Seaholm Power Plant were built nearby. Planning for the library began in 2009 as part of the district redevelopment surrounding the repurposed power plant. After some delays, the library, with a $125 million price tag, arrives as a major addition to downtown’s cultural landscape. In Austin, the new library doubles the book capacity of the previous central library, but books are not the focus of the architecture. For years, the library typology has been morphing into a more generic public space that supports a range of studious and social actions. Austin’s new Central Public Library, the city’s fourth, is an example of the library as urban amenity. Here, event takes precedence over edifice. As such, its traditional library aspects shrink while its public aspects sing. The library anchors a new district of Austin. Nearby, condominium and office towers race upward on either side of Shoal Creek; most of the neighborhood is recently completed or still under construction. The Green Water Treatment Plant Redevelopment itself will create 1.7 million square feet of leasable space. Next door, the former Seaholm Power Plant has been converted into offices for tech start-ups. One block north, the Independent, a Jenga-style residential tower similar in scheme to New York’s New Museum and now under construction, will rise 58 stories. An electrical substation, unable to be relocated, is screened by the “Power Picket,” a colored concrete post fence designed by NADAAA. Outside the library, a new bridge across Shoal Creek connects to the pedestrian-friendly areas of the 2nd Street District, itself developed just a decade ago, turning an underused set of city-owned blocks into a retail destination and the relocated home of Austin City Limits. The creek’s edge next to the library has been improved into a generously wide promenade. The library’s public energy starts here, as Austinites— ambling about the newest parts of their city or arriving from the airy parking garage below—are swept up into the expansive interior. This atrium is the most powerful space in the library. Atop the overhanging roof, a two-sided skylight with the profile of a cowboy hat directs sunlight deep into the interior, ensuring each floor is well lit. Every floor opens to the atrium—meeting rooms overlook it, wooden pathways span across it, and lighter stairs switchback upward on its edges. Its spectacle, part cavernous natural feature, corporate headquarters, and mall concourse, invites visitors to hike the trail rather than take the elevator. Upstairs, a variety of overlooks yield new urban vistas: To the north and east the rapidly changing skyline, to the south Lady Bird Lake, and to the west the beginnings of the Texas Hill Country. Lake|Flato are masters of the porch and have lifted this expertise into the sky, locating a series of outdoor spaces complete with hog wire enclosures and wood soffits on different levels. While the atrium is lively and loud, these spaces are pleasantly quiet. An eastern roof terrace concludes the trek with open-air views of downtown. The exterior, clad in tan limestone and gray metal panels, is the least successful part of the library. Corrugated profiles of rust-colored perforated metal stand off the southern facade and screen glazed areas elsewhere. Looking up, it is a busy assembly whose articulation is sourced from Austin’s contemporary vernacular, a language that Lake|Flato established and refined over the last thirty years. The library is one of the firm’s tallest projects, and perhaps that is part of the difficulty: Translating a style that works for low-lying buildings engaged with their landscape into a vertical urban condition is a significant design challenge. Inside, the atrium and central core break up the floor plates into a ring with interior stacks and seating on both perimeters. The verticality of the scheme promotes visual adjacency rather than physical togetherness. Throughout, the architecture creates comfortable vantage points, whose cumulative result is a casual publicness generated by all of the ways to see across and out of the building. The achievement and difficulty of this library is that its interior unfolds in a uniform topology of amenity space. The interior, shaped by its meeting rooms and furniture selections, feels more like the trays of a tech office or a co-working space than a library. In a familiar rupture of form and function, the architecture is decent in its design, while powerful in experience. The building is a constructed chakra of Austin’s energy right now, vortexed into being from the frenzy of development at work in the city. It feels like the karstic landscape and the accepted way of building upon it is peeled up and knotted into a bowline of pure Austin-ness. The library succeeds when one navigates it as a civic terrain—inside and out—and not explicitly as a distinct piece of architecture. It is a project that the public will embrace but will, despite its numerous charms, leave some architects wanting more. The central public library provides an image and experience of Austin today. But if this is the city now, where is it going? Outside the library’s buzz, the growing forest of towers, stitched together by creekside paths, offers one speculative way forward. Austin’s new Central Public Library will serve its publics for decades to come, as the city grows up around and out from it. If, as one Texan argued in The New Yorker last year, America’s future can be seen in the challenges of the Lone Star state, then what happens here takes on even greater meaning. What should this future look like? The eyes of Texas are beginning to see.

BIG unveils first pro sports stadium for Austin

Austin Sports & Entertainment, together with New York–based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Austin-based STG Design, has released a first look at plans for its 1.3-million-square-foot, multipurpose collection of interlinked stadiums. The new East Austin District bills itself as Austin’s first pro-sports stadium and will host workspaces, convention space, retail, medical facilities, and a huge music arena. Anchored by a 40,000-seat stadium designed for soccer and rugby games and a connected 15,000-seat multipurpose arena, East Austin District will be a loose collection of buildings covered by a shared, latticed rooftop. The checkerboard roof, taking inspiration from the Jefferson Grid, will segment each area by function while still allowing visitors to experience a variety of indoor and outdoor programs. Resembling enormous, overlapping shingles, the red photovoltaic roof will allow the district to be self-sufficient, and eventually export electricity to the rest of eastern Austin once the infrastructure is in place. “Like a collective campus rather than a monolithic stadium, the East Austin District unifies all the elements of rodeo and soccer into a village of courtyards and canopies. Embracing Austin’s local character and culture, the East Austin District is a single destination composed of many smaller structures under one roof,” said Bjarke Ingels, BIG's founding partner. Although each building greatly differs in function, they’re united through all-wood interiors that reference Austin’s characteristic barns and porches. Eight outdoor courtyards are interspersed throughout the district, further highlighting the connection to Austin’s porch and patio culture. Expected to be used throughout the year, the outdoor spaces will host public parks and plazas, food trucks, and smaller concerts. While BIG’s plans for East Austin District are still conceptual, Austin Sports & Entertainment has been pushing to raise funding for the project, although they have declined to disclose the projected cost. If successful, the district would be built over the site of the annual Rodeo Austin with the event moving to the development’s secondary arena. “We are in active discussions with leading global sports and entertainment organizations, including our partner Rodeo Austin as well as various corporations, to serve as anchors to accelerate the goals of the Spirit of East Austin Forum,” said Sean Foley & Andrew Nestor, co-managing partners of Austin Sports & Entertainment, in a statement. If investors for the project can be found, construction is expected to begin in 2018 and finish by 2021.

UT Austin hires experts on border communities and environmental justice

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSoA) has announced two new teaching hires as part of the school's ongoing Race and Gender in the Built Environment Initiative. Edna Ledesma has joined as a teaching fellow for the next academic year and Miriam Solis will begin a tenure-track position in the Fall of 2018. This announcement comes on the heels of the university naming Michelle Addington as dean of the school earlier this year, though the initiative pre-dates her tenure at the school. UTSoA is a leader among architecture schools when it comes to diversity, having originated several internal commissions and programs as far back as 2008 to address the growing calls for equitable representation in academia. The school in recent years has announced new academic tracks in Latin American Architecture and expanded the offerings of its Community and Regional Planning program, one of the most robust programs of its kind. In many cases, it is not simply a matter of who the school is hiring, but also what research those scholars bring into the fold and how they contribute to a heterogenous learning environment. Ledesma, who holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Science from Texas A&M University and has two previous graduate degrees in design, focuses on issues related to border communities and the cultural landscape of immigrant populations in Texas. Ledesma’s research formally began in 2013 when she organized a series of design engagements called “dialogos” in the South Texas city of Brownsville. Her work seeks to bridge the gap between communities and city governments to help define the design agency of traditionally under-represented groups. Ledesma noted that she was drawn to this fellowship because of UTSoA’s distinct interdisciplinary approach to design and research, which often allows for cross-pollination among the school's academic programs. Solis will enter her professorship next year with a PhD in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley after completing a Switzer Fellowship for her work in environmental planning. Her research focuses on social and environmental justice related to the development of urban infrastructures, an area of research that she has contributed to through her years of experience in California. One of Solis’ ongoing projects concerns the equitable redevelopment of San Francisco’s wastewater system which has historically negatively impacted African American communities.

Austin is getting its own “smart” street

Smart city technology is a burgeoning but embryonic field: Kansas City has its "Living Lab," New York City has its LinkNYC, and Toronto may get an entire Sidewalk Labs–developed smart city tech testing ground—and that's just to name a few. While each project is different, many involve using a network of sensors, wi-fi stations, and smartphone apps to better connect residents (and tourists) with local businesses, events, and public transportation. Now, Austin is joining this cadre of smart city testers. Austin CityUP Consortium—an alliance of businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations—is behind the Smart 2nd Street Living Lab, an effort to bring a similar smart city network to five blocks of Austin's 2nd Street. (The Lab will extend from Guadalupe Street to Trinity Street on 2nd Street, to be exact.) This system will, according to the Consortium, "collect [and] analyze data such as: pedestrian, traffic, sound, air quality, video, and more to determine safety, quality of life, and other needs." Helping to power this undertaking will be Connecthings, a French company that has already implemented similar technology in European cities such as Lyon and Barcelona, and even farther afield in Rio de Janeiro. How does it work? Generally, it goes like this: many already-existing apps benefit from knowing your location. If they know where you are, the apps can show you geographically-relevant information on local events, transit notifications, security alerts, etc. That's what Connecthings does: it deploys small battery-driven sensors and software that ensures location-specific information gets to the relevant apps on your phone. In the case of Austin, Connecthings is just providing elements of the software while BlueCats is deploying the beacons. Additionally, the Austin test won't initially involve apps—instead, when users with Bluetooh and Chrome approach certain bus stations, they will receive the option (in their notifications/widget panel) to connect to a location-specific URL. Selecting that URL will provide real-time bus schedules for that stop. This feature will be operational as soon as the sensors are installed in September. Down the line, as early as October, other apps will enable the project's full range of "use cases," which includes the ability to find open parking spots, locate alternative transportation options (e.g. ride-shares, public bicycles, taxis), receive wayfinding assistance, or learn about pop-ups and public art. Additionally, the city can use the sensors to record the street's environmental conditions and learn how people are using the streetscape itself. “Austin embraces new technologies that empower its citizens and visitors to get access to real-time information—hence facilitate daily life in helping navigating transportation services,” said Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO and founder of Connecthings. “AustinCityUP is Austin’s key innovation enabler that fosters partnerships and helps make an impact in the city, right away.” If successful, according to the Consortium, this network could extend beyond 2nd Street.

Two Ai Weiwei sculptures come to Texas

According to the League of American Cyclists, Austin is the only “Gold Level” city in Texas. The cycle group, Bike Austin, currently boasts approximately 13,000 members—more than one percent of Austin’s population. So perhaps a sculpture titled Forever Bicycles has found the right home.

Forever Bicycles comprises, well, you guessed it, a lot of bicycles—1,200, to be precise.

The large-scale work from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is part of The Contemporary Austin’s Museum Without Walls program and its ongoing partnership with Waller Creek Conservancy. It can be found adjacent to the Waller Creek Boathouse at 74 Trinity Street.

The steel bikes have not been painted or colored, resulting in a gray monolith that recalls Weiwei’s childhood memories and dadaist principles. In particular, it seems to reference Marcel Duchamp’s subversions of the everyday object such as the Bicycle Wheel, one first of the French artist’s “readymades.”

However, while Duchamp toyed with the mode transport in a singular fashion, Weiwei exhibits it in excess, recalling the bike brand “Forever” that dominated the streets of China during his childhood, yet were out of his, and many others’, price range.

The bikes are connected and arranged in a seemingly disorderly manner, yet this pattern of partially tessellating bicycles is repeated 11 times, with each iteration being equidistant from the next. From certain angles, the density of the sculpture obscures the cycle motif and the artwork is instead perceived as a metal mesh. However, this isn’t putting off Bike Austin, which says it will be incorporating the sculpture into the daily cycle routes.

Forever Bicycles is actually one of two Weiwei works that now fall under the Museum Without Walls program. The second, titled Iron Tree Trunk, is located at the museum’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria and sees a replica dead tree trunk rise 15 feet.

On a visit to the Chinese town of Jingdezhen, Weiwei observed how locals trade dry wood by basing the value on the wood’s form and general aesthetic. This inspired Weiwei to experiment with wood in a large-scale format. By 2009, he was exhibiting works that used twisted timber, and Iron Tree Trunk, conceived in 2015, continues this thought. The sculpture uses the remains of a large tree that have been pieced together to form a new “tree” that, at a glance, looks as if it is from oxidized iron.

“With beautiful and outspoken conceptual work fused to his own larger-than-life persona, Ai Weiwei has become one of the most important artists working today,” said Louis Grachos, executive director of The Contemporary Austin in a statement. “And his relevance is only deepening given the current political climate in the United States and throughout the world.”

Delve into “Piranesi’s Rome” at The Blanton Museum of Art in Austin

With more than 40 prints examining the antiquities and architecture of Rome, along with large-scale maps of the city, books, and plaster casts of Greek and Roman architectural fragments, Piranesi’s Rome celebrates Giovanni Battista Piranesi, regarded as one of the greatest printmakers of the 18th century. Piranesi, who considered himself an architect as well as an artist, is best known for his use of the etching medium to create prints of Rome’s architecture, including the ancient Roman aqueduct system, and fantastical buildings that could only exist in the dream world.

Piranesi’s Rome Blanton Museum of Art 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Austin, TX Through August 20

Kory Bieg of Austin’s OTA+ on how parametric design can shape structures

Aluminum composite panels have been making headlines of late for all the wrong reasons. The subject of scourge was at the heart—or rather, outer edges—of the Grenfell Tower disaster in the U.K. that saw a fire take the lives of an estimated 80 people as flames traveled via the building's aluminum composite cladding. However, at Facades+ AM conference in Austin yesterday morning, the material was shown in a new light. As part of the opening discussion panel, titled Digital Design and Fabrication Frontiers, principal at OTA+, Kory Bieg demonstrated how aluminum composite panels can be used to make three-dimensional structures such as arches and vaults. Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), Bieg described how he used parametric design tools such as the Kangaroo plugin for Grasshopper to design Caret 6. The vaulting structure, designed and fabricated by his Design V Studio at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, was part of an exhibition on metal structures in 2013. Caret 6 is comprised of large folded panels and responds to a brief that called for a structure using aggregation, weaving, and stacking techniques to create an assembly that could transition from a flat surface to a volumetric enclosure.
"To enable a smooth transition from a flat, two-dimensional ground surface into a volumetric, three-dimensional vault, the studio used a diamond pattern that could work as both an aggregate and woven rib-system. Though the diamond pattern appears to be series of stacked cells, the structure is actually three layers of overlapping ribs," said OTA+ on its website. "Large, continuous primary ribs form the seams from vault to vault, while secondary ribs span between each seam. Tertiary ribs complete the web and enclose each cell to create a rigid structure."
"A core goal of the studio was to introduce asymmetry into what would otherwise be a symmetrical form. The vault is roughly eleven foot at its highest point, enclosing a space small enough for occupants to engage directly with the surface, a condition atypical for most vaults which often frame larger and much taller spaces. "Caret 6 was designed to fill an already existing space," said Bieg, "so it was necessary to design a geometry that responded to the existing room, especially at the edges, where the vaulting forms project toward the walls."
Bieg benefitted from using Robot Structural Analysis which enabled him to model and test different Aluminum Composite Panel configurations to find the optimum structural solution. "Ultimately, we added a layer of attachment details that included thousands of O-rings and binder rings to ensure stability in the event a lateral force or unexpected point load is applied (ie. someone hanging on the edge of the cantilever), but in its resting state, Caret 6 does not require any fasteners," the firm said. Bieg was joined by Anthony Birchler of fabrication firm Zahner. "Digital manufacturing plays an enormous role in not only what we do, but the changing landscape of architecture and design fields," he said speaking to AN. "Designers want to understand how they can interface with a firm like Zahner—and here's the big part—they need to know how to establish this kind of precedent with their clients in our industry. Our presentation shows how firms are accomplishing unique architectural works. This isn't theoretical. This is our practice, and we want to show you how you can do this kind of work"

Austin student housing tower bends into shape

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Rhode Partners, an interdisciplinary design studio that unites architecture, interior design, and master planning, has recently completed a student housing project situated just outside the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. A soft curvature along the exterior envelope of the tower organizes the residential portion of the building along an asymmetrical linear grid, while custom-designed clothespin-shaped columns help transfer the load of the tower structure down into a parking garage below.
  • Facade Manufacturer Fabral (metal wall panels); American Fiber Cement (fiber cement wall panels); AMICO (garage screening); Thermal Windows (unit windows); Oldcastle (curtain wall)
  • Architects Rhode Partners
  • Facade Installer Texas 5th Wall, McInerney & Associates
  • Facade Consultants n/a
  • Location Austin, TX
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System Cast-in-place concrete frame
  • Products 1/2-inch corrugated metal wall panels (Fabral); Minerit HD (American Fiber Cement); AMICO Apex 01 (garage screening); 4150 Series Thermal Windows (unit windows); Reliance by Oldcastle (curtain wall)
The design of the project was inspired by "avoiding stereotypes" of what typical apartment housing looks like, according to Brett Rhode, director of Rhode Partners. "We wanted to avoid the common L-shaped building scenario, so we developed a way to make a prominent widening of the footprint that gave us some interesting form to work with architecturally and also provided a way to increase the rentable square footage." The building envelope of the residential tower is constructed of light gauge non-load bearing metal framing with two cladding systems that respond to different areas of the building. The first is a rain screen system with a layer of mineral wool exterior insulation. Rainscreen materials vary from metal cladding to fiber cement and high-density laminate cladding. The other exterior cladding assembly was an exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS), which is employed in the curved sections of the primary facade. Below the tower sits a three-story parking garage podium that was clad with expanded aluminum sheet panels; these offer visual screening to parked cars. The panels are attached to horizontal tensioned cables, eliminating the need for a backup steel framework. This detailing, along with the modular panel size, offered an economical solution to the garage facade. One of the most recognizable elements in the building design is several projecting balcony elements that responded to the client’s program requirements of providing a select number of balconies for the building. The architects wrapped a cantilevered steel frame in perforated metal panels and used fiberglass gratings for flooring, treating the balconies as translucent figural shapes that project beyond the facade. Rhode said, "it seemed like an interesting opportunity to use them to enliven the facade. We turned them into objects that don’t immediately look like balconies.” A core focus of the Austin-based architecture firm is to integrate BIM and IES energy modeling on all of their projects, which span civic, multifamily, hotel, office, and retail markets. The project team for University House Austin was able to collaborate with the general contractor (Rogers O’Brian Construction) to develop an initial BIM model that was referenced throughout the construction of the project. “This was a big reason why we were able to get a more interesting facade within budget, “ said Rhode. “We also use digital fabrication techniques in our model shop, especially in the early design phases.” Rhode will be participating in Austin's upcoming Facades+AM conference, where he will be joining other local architects, engineers, and planners in a session titled “Austin’s Changing Skyline.” He will be focusing on the technological aspects of the envelope of one of their latest projects—The Independent—as they relate to aesthetics, energy usage, and cost. The event is part of a multi-city conference series on high-performance building enclosures. More information on Facades+AM, which organizes ten presenters into a three-session morning breakfast and networking event, can be found here

Arthur Andersson on his approach to Austin high-rises

Austin, Texas is a hot place to be. In fact, according to Arthur Andersson, it's "hotter than the hinges of hell." The Austin-based architect is a principal at Andersson-Wise Architects and will be speaking at this month's Facades+ AM conference in the city. He spoke to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) about a recent Austin project, Block 21, and how he combated the city's climate.

Though its official name doesn't give much away, Block 21 incorporates a W Hotel, residences, retail, offices, and a recording studio for KLRU where the show Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater is filmed. The building was Andersson's first ever high-rise (Block 21 climbs to 37 stories) but the architect was committed to producing a "useful" rather than a "pure" building.

"Many architects would have put protruding balconies on both sides of the building," claimed Andersson, who instead, opted to recess some on one side. "I posed a question to the Mayor, 'do you ever see people on those north balconies?'" Mayor Will Wynn's response was predictably a "no." Subsequently, Block 21's balconies provide shade in the summer and let the sun in and heat condos in the winter. "None of the four are sides doing the same thing, they're all different and based on the sun’s position," Andersson added. "Recessing balconies is like giving the building sunglasses."

Another method of tackling Austin's climate was through color. "Here, for some reason, a lot of the taller buildings are either beige or brown—or at least they were," said Andersson. "All these colors made you feel hotter than you already are! In Austin the sky gets super blue, so we wound up with a color scheme that almost disappears into the sky."

"The second thing that we did, and we the first building in Austin to do this, was to use a curtain wall so the structure was all inside and you couldn't see any mullions. As a result, the glass can have a very minimal connection, you just see [a] sheer face." As for the rest of the facade, particularly at the base of the building where the recording studio is located, compressed cement panels from Swisspearl acted as a rainscreen and provided a matte finish—a contrast the reflective glass. 

Staying with the lower portion of the building, Andersson explained how Bill Zahner, president and CEO of A. Zahner Company, helped with the sheet metal work to create pre-finish weathered steel look for the car park, lobby, and base, which came across to Andersson as being like "ruins" when twinned with concrete.

Andersson will be speaking at Facades+ AM this July 18 in Austin. There he will discuss Block 21 in greater detail and joining him (albeit on a different panel) will be Anthony Birchler, vice president of engineering at A. Zahner Company.

Seating is limited. To find out more, please visit am.facadesplus.com.