Austin’s Circuit of the Americas gets an iconic observation tower using 350 tons of steel.The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, will host the United States Grand Prix from 2012 to 2021. While German Formula 1 specialist Hermann Tilke designed the racecourse and technical facilities, COTA’s owners hired local firm Miró Rivera Architects to turn out a main grandstand and amenities for the 9,000 fans expected to attend the races. In addition to imbuing the project with a variety of programmatic functions that go beyond racing, Miró Rivera created a sleek observation tower that gives spectators unrestricted views across the racetrack’s twisting expanse. “Our idea for the tower was to be able to go way up and see the track from one focal point in a structure that was an iconographic symbol for the track,” said Miguel Rivera, founder and principal of the architecture firm. “Our inspiration came from Formula 1 cars, where speed and efficiency are so important.” Just like the track’s feature attractions, the tower’s design didn’t feature any excesses. Structural engineers at Walter P Moore helped ensure every piece of steel did some kind of work so the tower was as efficient as possible. Working with the architects’ 2D drawings, the structural engineering team developed a three dimensional tower with all the requisite details for construction—right down to bolts and welding points—in Tekla Structures. “Everything that goes into fabrication is digitally defined in this program,” said Mark Waggoner, principal with Walter P Moore. “Generally, in our business, we deliver paper drawings for the steel fabricator to interpret and build, but we were able to bypass this step and print shop drawings directly from our model.” To increase efficacy, the engineers wrote some of their own connections for programming interfaces with steel fabricator Patriot Erectors. Waggoner also located the joints, especially for the veil, (the tubular red feature, inspired by the tracers of a car’s tail lights in the dark) in Tekla. To reduce the cost of bending each 8-inch steel tube to the architect’s initial drawings, the program helped break large radii into segmented, straight lines to achieve time and cost savings. To facilitate shipment to the COTA track, the 20- by 20- by 250-foot structure was broken into four pieces that could be stitched back together on site. Patriot Erectors welded 10- by 10- by 30-foot sections in their Dripping Springs, Texas-facility that were assembled on three different casting beds and craned into position. Reflecting on the 11-month digital design/build schedule, Waggoner said the process for the COTA Observation Tower was somewhat unconventional. “People generally like to have paper drawings for these types of projects,” he explained. “But at the end of the day, the general contractor felt this process saved us about three months of time.”
Posts tagged with "Austin":
In her speech, Meeks mentioned that since taking over leadership of the NTHP and meeting with preservationists and architects all over the country, three themes kept coming up: 1) The need to make preservation more accessible, 2) The need to make preservation more visible, and 3) The need to ensure that preservation is fully funded. By addressing those three things, she said, historic preservation can be a "visible, dynamic, broadly inclusive movement." However, I thought the most salient point she made was that places are powerful: Whether a landscape like the Hudson Valley or a historic site like the Alamo, every place has a story to tell and, as Meeks said, "they help us tell our stories, as individuals and as Americans."For his part, the New Yorker's Goldberger spoke about how Austin embodied the Next American City, making it a fitting location for the conference. Unlike Detroit and St. Louis, which represent the Old American City, Austin is both connected to history and “energetically forward-thinking” thanks to the presence of the University of Texas as well as the corporate headquarters of Dell and Whole Foods. He pointed out that it’s not a city dependent on the so-called "meds and eds" solutions -- healthcare and education -- that many cities rely on in postindustrial America, and that Austin does not have the “new pseudo-urban landscape" of Tyson’s Corner or the Buckhead section of Atlanta, or the Galleria area of Houston, which he cited as "new places that aspire to urbanity but don’t really possess much of it and which show us that a certain amount of density and tall buildings alone do not a city make.” Goldberger also pointed out that “poverty is a great friend” of historic preservation, simply because there’s less money and therefore less of an impetus for building big and tossing aside historic buildings because they aren’t shiny and new. In light of that, he felt that Austin was yet again a good role model for the Next American City, since it has prosperity but also pays heed to its architectural past: Its “solid economy has not led to a complete indifference to preservation.” Hopefully, as the city goes forward with developing a denser downtown, especially in the residential sector, the powers that be will remember that historic buildings or streetscapes are of significant value to the community.