As implied by its name, Confluence Park overlooks the meeting of San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River in San Antonio, Texas. Located about three miles south of downtown, the park acts as a gateway for the historic Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River. The $13.7 million project includes an education center and extensive landscaping that illustrates the diverse biomes of Texas. But what most visitors will remember about the 3.5-acre park are the nearly 30-foot-tall concrete petals that emerge from the ground to form a sprawling overhead canopy. Twenty-two of these sculptural panels are clustered together to form a single, large, open-air pavilion. Another six are paired together to form three smaller gathering areas. In addition to providing relief from the South Texas sun, these panels are shaped so that when it rains, they channel water into an integrated system of rainwater collection, filtration, and dispersal. All of this reinforces the stated mission of the park, which is to act as a destination for recreation while teaching important lessons about environmental science and sustainability. To that end, the design team sought to create a composition of architectural and landscape elements that used the same kind of logic found in nature. Ball-Nogues Studio, a Los Angeles–based design practice, established the park’s conceptual master plan. From there, the design was developed in close collaboration with the landscape architect Rialto Studio, Lake|Flato Architects, and Matsys, a San Francisco–based design practice that specializes in the development of new approaches to architectural design and fabrication. That particular skill set was critical in the development of the park’s concrete. Given the structural gymnastics involved, the project’s structural engineer, Architectural Engineers Collaborative (AEC), became an integral part of the design team as well. Although petals of steel, fabric, and wood were all considered during the design process, concrete was ultimately selected for its durability and permanence. Even though the majority of funding for the project came from private donations, Confluence Park functions as a public park, and so vandalism and long-term resiliency were key considerations. Despite the apparent complexity of the assembled petals, the design only required three unique petal shapes. These three forms were refined digitally using Grasshopper and Rhino. The resulting computer files were then provided to Kreysler & Associates and fed to their large 5-axis CNC router at their factory in California. The resulting Styrofoam “positives” were then used to manufacture the fiberglass “negatives” that were shipped to San Antonio to be used as formwork for the petals. Each of the park’s 28 petals was cast on-site but not in place. Given their complex geometry, a portion of the petal had to be exposed during the pour. This resulted in two contrasting concrete textures: a smooth finish where the concrete was poured into the fiberglass form, and a broom finish where the concrete was left exposed. As with many other aspects of the project, a custom solution was required here, too. A special eight-inch broom was used to apply the finish consistently to the petal’s curved form and to emulate the flow of water down the petals. After the concrete had cured for several days, the petals were lifted into their final positions. As with any tilt-up concrete structure, this was the moment when the highest stresses would be placed upon the petals. Adding to the complexity of the erection process was the fact that the petals had to be assembled in pairs: neighboring petals were joined to one another with two steel pin connections to form a determinant structure. The result of all this effort is a unique landmark on the south side of San Antonio. Despite the weight of the concrete petals—individual petals weigh between 15 and 20 tons each—the resulting structure feels remarkably light. The space between individual petals contributes to this feeling of weightlessness, while acrylic lenses embedded in the concrete add a bit of playfulness to the overall composition. In addition to illustrating the possibilities of contemporary concrete construction, Confluence Park demonstrates what is possible when a highly collaborative interdisciplinary design team works with an educated client to create something truly unique. It is only fitting that a park built to celebrate the confluence of diverse bodies of water be created by a confluence of diverse design professionals. Pavilion Design Matsys Landscape Architect Rialto Studio Structural Engineer Architectural Eng. Collaborative MEP CNG Engineering, PLLC Lighting Designer Mazzetti Energy Consultants Positive Energy Waterproofing Consultant Acton Partners This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Texas Architect magazine.
Posts tagged with "Ball-Nogues Studio":
The Max Factor Building—built in 1974 by A.C. Martin & Associates as an extension to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles—has never really been well-loved. The forlorn hospital complex is made up of a trio of institutional towers placed atop a pair of parking structures that are arranged around what should be a courtyard but is actually a five-lane boulevard that delves underneath the main tower. In a 1992 review of complex for The Los Angeles Times, critic Aaron Betsky described the black glass and limestone-clad structures as an example of “purposeful blandness” and labeled the hospital an “anti-urban bunker of bad form.” Flash forward to 2017: The towers remain unchanged in their appearance but stand renewed along the podium terraces that flank either side of Gracie Allen Drive, where AHBE Landscape Architects and Ball-Nogues Studio (BNS) recently completed work on new healing gardens and a pavilion, respectively. According to Calvin Abe, principal at AHBE Landscape Architects, the terraces had been a forgotten public space at the hospital for many years, a fact Abe hoped his interventions could shift by reorienting the way patients and visitors arrived at Cedars, as they made their way from the parking structure to the hospital proper. Benjamin Ball, principal at BNS, explained that the neglected terrace “had not been given much consideration as public place for the hospital” when originally designed, a fact worsened by its sensitive location sandwiched between air intake grilles and operating rooms. The arrangement meant that any construction activity would have to be undertaken rather silently and without generating much dust. To boot, the site’s existing structural arrangement meant that improvements would need to be vigorously studied in order to guarantee that new loads were being resolved without disrupting the podium’s original structural grid. As a result, the project team came to consider the site as more of a performative skin than a static structure. The surface-level project tries to heal the “epidermis of the complex,” as Abe explains, referring to the outermost public region of the hospital, by “grafting a piece of living, breathing landscape above the existing parking decks.” To achieve this goal, the firm re-designed the two terrace areas as a series of multi-functional outdoor garden rooms—what they call “portable gardens” due to the fact that the structural requirements forbade permanent installation of these new planters. Even so, Abe was able to soften the edges of the terraces with wide swaths of tall grasses, wooden boardwalks and benches, and ancillary, succulent-rich beds framed in three eights inch thick stainless steel sheets. Along the north arm of the terrace, sinuous benches made from kiln-dried Brazilian hardwood pop in and out of their surroundings, sometimes nestled into supple berms, at other times sitting proudly under the sun above the boardwalk. The planted areas are mirrored in a more minimal and integrated fashion across the way, where the edges of the wide, wavy beds seamlessly transition from stainless steel border to wooden bench and back again. The north arm of the terrace is organized as a tripartite band of terraces, with a large wooden boardwalk sandwiched between the grassy precipice and succulent bed. At the center of the run, the path bulges out to make room for BNS’s pavilion, a looming husk crafted by humans and CNC machines out of woven networks of stainless steel tubes. Ball explained that his team wanted to contrast the prototypical architecture of the medical towers with a sculptural pavilion that could stand out on the improved terrace. To counter the geometric, stone-clad exposures of the towers, BNS designed a multi-lobed shade structure that would be inspired by self-supported concrete shell structures but be constructed out of CNC-shaped steel tubing. “We tried to develop a language that could only be achieved using this type of machine-shaped caged shell,” Ball explained. Ball described the pavilion as having “no hierarchy in terms of structure,” a quality that would instead be lended by the pavilion’s billowing forms, which themselves were finessed by the quotidien requirements of the structure’s lateral loads. The billowing form wraps over the walkway on one side and frames a smooth, J-shaped bench underneath a parallel and transversal lobe. When seen from the boardwalk, the structures appear squat and wide, a quality that disappears entirely when the pavilion is viewed from the opposite edge, where the shells rise proud of the boardwalk and slip past one another. BNS, working with local fabricator Hensel Phelps, worked to meld into reality a form that not only faithfully represented the computer-generated mass—Rhino and Maya were used, among other programs—but that also reflected what the CNC machines could ultimately produce. Ball explained that the design and fabrication teams had to work iteratively to establish limitations for the structure, adding that the back-and-forth process ultimately “outlined the aesthetics of the project—It created the rule book, not the other way around.” The structure was eventually fabricated off site, assembled in its entirety prior to installation, and finally craned into place. Ultimately, the structure came within a two centimeter tolerance of the digital model, due in equal measure to the digital tools and the highly skilled craftwork of the fabricators. Ball explained finally: “To get a project like this to look polished and highly crafted, you need hand skills.”
A custom architectural enclosure composed of 200 CNC-milled custom aluminum extrusions.Forming a porous perimeter to a new ballpark at Southwest University Park in El Paso (home to the minor league El Paso Chihuahuas), Ball-Nogues Studio's “Not Whole Fence” project taps into a tradition of monumentally over-scaled public art with an attention to craft and detailing. Capping off the Populous-designed ballpark, the fence installation turns the corner along a busy pedestrian intersection. The public art commission involved design, engineering, and installation in a rapid timeframe – the architects were given less than a year from conceptualization through fabrication. Benjamin Ball, principal in charge at Ball-Nogues Studio, said there was a desire to address the history of the game with the installation. “There’s a mythical history to baseball about kids using knotholes in the fence to sneak views into the game if they didn’t have tickets.” The fence adopts a large scale wood grain patterning, scaling up the dimensions of a picket to form one massive bending surface. Strategically placed “knotholes” in the surface composition allow pedestrians an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the action on the field. “The structural quality of the fence creates a sense of mystery. By allowing mostly partial views of the action inside the ballpark, it calls for the imagination to conjure up the rest of the picture, creating a sense of fantasy and infinite possibilities.” While the design concept evokes a literal image of a wood plank, the detailing of the facade components produce a sophisticated, robust assembly. The architects designed the fence as a system of extrusions serving as both the skin and the structure. Working with Sapa Extrusions, the team designed and produced a custom dye for production of a unique aluminum extrusion for the project, ultimately yielding around 200 repeatable components that bolt together on site. Ball said a lot of design and engineering that went into the individual extrusion. The team designed in fins on the front side, with larger struts on the back side, producing enough structural rigidity to withstand a subtractive CNC milling process. A wood grain patterning is registered in the surface by milling out selective areas of the panels. When viewed frontally, glimpses of the ballpark can be seen, however when viewed obliquely, large struts block openings while providing surface area to reflect a soft glow of daylight. Ball notes interesting similarities to the tectonic assembly of some segments of the US/Mexico border fence, only a quarter mile from the site. "You can't blow anything up to a colossal scale without thinking about Claus Oldenberg," said Ball regarding the literal reading of a picket fence in their fence facade. "We've never used that as a strategy before in our work. This still has to function as a fence, and we still value things like detailing, tectonics, connections. In contrast to Oldenberg's work, we occupy an "unusual gray zone" between architecture and public art.” Ball says his studio is ultimately is interested in craft of building regardless of typology. “We're looking for the right challenges, and the right people to work with. Are they willing to take chances? Do they believe in our process? That could apply to buildings or public art.” CORRECTION: Neal Feay Company was originally omitted from our list of Project Credits. The studio played a significant role in the machining process, providing specialty fabrication and consultation for the “Not Whole Fence” project.
A prominent corner in West Hollywood now wears an architectural halo. Tasked with designing a permanent installation for The Dylan, a new apartment building at Santa Monica Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Ball-Nogues Studio decided to create "something that would serve as a kind of gateway to West Hollywood," according to Benjamin Ball. "Because we were going to work on this corner, we didn’t have very much real estate. We decided to think about the corner as though it was emanating a kind of supernatural force, something suggestive of some kind of metaphysical presence emanating from this banal corner of the building. Sort of like a glory that surrounds a relic’s figure in religious iconography, without the religious icon." Working closely with engineers Buro Happold, Ball-Nogues designed Corner Glory, a fan of mirror-polished stainless steel spikes arranged around a column of inset windows. "We looked at ways in which we could create...something that suggested aura or an energy field, or a solar flare," said Ball. The reflective surface, its individual components lined up as the teeth of a comb, gradually dematerializes as it projects out from the building. "It doesn’t have a strong edge in spite of being a solid material," explained Ball. Corner Glory, which was both fabricated and installed by Ball-Nogues Studio, is fully integrated with the structure of the building. The Dylan, developed by Monarch Builders and Essex Property Trust, is joined by a second Monarch-Essex development at Fountain and La Brea called The Huxley. (The buildings were named for writers Dylan Thomas and Aldous Huxley, respectively.) Newman Garrison + Partners designed both six-story buildings, which together cost more than $150 million. The Huxley, which has 187 units, opened March 15. The Dylan, with 184 units, is expected to open this summer.
LAX finally opened its shiny new Tom Bradley terminal, designed by Fentress Architects, to quite a hullabaloo in July. The throngs who showed up for “Appreciation Days” got to enjoy shopping, music, and even free LAX keychains and knickknacks. But one of the most prominent elements was missing: the public art. Major pieces by Ball-Nogues, Pae White, and Mark Bradford were all delayed for what one participant called “a lack of sophistication on LAX’s part” in shepherding such work through. In other words, the officials didn’t get how to pull this kind of thing off. Well never fear, despite the bumps, contract disputes, and many miscues, the installations will begin opening in late September and continue through the end of the year. Better late than never.
Things didn't work out for installation experts Ball-Nogues Studio at MOCA's New Sculpturalism show, but the firm has rebounded nicely. They've just completed mounting one of their most ambitious works yet: a 70-foot-tall upside-down replica of William Pereira's Transamerica Pyramid, for the show Modernist Maverick: The Architecture of William Pereira, on view at the Nevada Art Museum in Reno, NV. The installation, made out of chain link and stainless steel plates, hangs from the ceiling via steel cables attached to the museum building's structure. "We distilled it to its barest essentials. It looks like the ghost of the building," said Ball-Nogues principal Gaston Nogues. Each chain could only be attached at a specific point, so the hardest part was fine tuning the model, stretching and moving each possible iteration, added Nogues. "It's quite labor intensive to make sure it looked flat, and that each chain had the right tension," he said. The show, which opens next week, runs from through October 13. It looks at many other noted Pereira projects, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the University of California, San Diego Geisel Library, and the Theme Building at LAX.
Ball-Nogues Studio: Yevrus 1, Negative Impression SCI-Arc Gallery 960 East 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA June 1–July 8 On display at the SCI-Arc Gallery is Los Angeles–based architecture practice Ball-Nogues Studio’s Yevrus 1, Negative Impression, which attempts to call into question the current fashionability of abstracted and digital forms. Through an assemblage of non-architectural objects represented very literally, the project represents a new type of site survey. The objects selected to be part of the structure were picked from the Los Angeles suburban landscape (a pool, above) and become the elements of an installation. The architects used digital scanning technology to make biodegradable paper-pulp castings of 1973 Volkswagen Beetles and speedboats for a lookout tower in the gallery. Yevrus (“survey” spelled backwards) is a new technique pioneered by the firm that rethinks the site survey by utilizing it not as a tool for construction and engineering, but as a methodology of deriving form, creating structures, and realizing meaning.
Everyone's favorite installation architects, Ball-Nogues Studio, are producing one of their most ambitious works to date: The Yucca Crater, a 24-foot-tall installation in the middle of the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree. The project's wavy wood shell will contain rock climbing holds on its interior, rising out of eight feet of water (the basin, the firm describes, is a nod to abandoned suburban swimming pools scattered across the Mojave). The wood will come from the formwork of another Ball-Nogues project, Talus Dome, in Edmonton, Canada. It is being built for High Desert Test Sites (HDTS), an initiative that invites artists to create experimental projects scattered among towns near Joshua Tree National Park like Joshua Tree, Pioneertown, Wonder Valley, Yucca Valley, and 29 Palms. Other HDTS installations have included The Crystal Cave Project, the recreation of a desert swap meet that had been discontinued by local government, and Untitled, a compilation of hovering doors and windows without a surrounding building. Check out a video of the Yucca Crater installation or donate to the project here. According to the firm donations through microphilanthropy group United States Artists need to be received by this Friday. So far they've raised just over half their goal, so pony up if you want to see this thing happen.
The Architectural League of New York's Emerging Voices program is one of the country's most prestigious venues for showcasing significant design talent. This years list is no exception, with a mix of young and more established firms, working in a variety of scales and formal and social approaches. The lecture series will begin on Wednesday, March 9 with Brooklyn's Interboro Partners and Lateral Office of Toronto. Wednesday, March 16: de leon + primmer architecture workshop of Louisville, Kentucky and WXY architecture + urban design of New York. Wednesday, March 23: Ruy Klein of New York and Taylor and Miller Architecture and Design of Great Barrington, MA. Wednesday, March 30: Ball Nogues Studio of Los Angeles and P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S also of Los Angeles.
Despite the frustration of having to drive everywhere, often sitting through interminable traffic, at least Angelinos can boast some of the prettiest parking structures in the country. One of the latest to the game is Pugh + Scarpa's dressed up garages for the redeveloped Santa Monica Place mall, garages that were originally designed by the same man behind the now demolished mall, Frank Gehry himself. Not content to simply dress up some old garages with a flashy new facade, the mall has dedicated space on each of the two parking structures for art installations As Curbed reported last week, the proposals, which include the above one by Ball Nogues and a tile mural by Anne Marie Karlsen, recently received final approval from the Santa Monica City Council. The plans had been kicking around for a few year, and frankly, we're a little surprised to see Ben and Gaston's Newton’s Cradle-inspired piece being realized, since Ben once confided in us some uncertainty on getting the gravitationally anchored sculpture to stay aloft. Then again, playing on this uncertainty is what much of the firm's work is all about. Bully for the young designers, though, and for Santa Monica for taking such a risk on this ballsy project.
After Mike the Poet finished his set Thursday night, I found Benjamin Ball of Ball-Nogues Studio still in the crowd. He had been the second to last presenter, mostly talking about the firm's work, and he was now taking compliments from admirers and shooting the breeze with friends. I, never not working, asked about the teepee in Woodstock he'd mentioned, though Ben was more interested in chatting me up about the paper, Venice, and my bowtie. Soon enough, a group of us found ourselves in the lobby, but the drinks being overpriced, we hit the street. The five of us--Ben, three of his artist friends, and myself--deliberated on one of LA's countless quiet street corners. The establishment across the street, Library Bar, was deemed "too USC" and abandoned. Where to go? A loud, hipstery joint, Bar 107 was settled on some blocks away. This being LA, everyone split up, with two headed for a car, another to her bike, and Ben and I on foot. As we make our we across town, I begin to interrogate Ben, especially about his adopted home, a place, during my brief stay, I find to be incredibly fascinating. Not very far into the conversation, we pass through Pershing Square, a park in downtown LA redesigned in the '90s by Ricardo Legorreta and Laurie Olin, a place Ben is not exactly fond of. "God," he says, as we cross the street and enter the park, "they need to bulldoze this shit. It's a perfect example of how stale thinking was in the 90s." Still, this hasn't hindered the development of downtown, a movement Ben is very much a strong believer in, having moved his and partner Gaston Nogues' studio into a loft building in the area. "The rent is still dirt cheap," Ben said. "You can get a place for less than a dollar a square foot, which the developers are happy to do because they know you'll pave the wave." When I pointed out that the streets were dead and devoid of many necessary amenities, he conceded that this was true, but as with all gentrification, bound to change--if you build it, they will come. When we arrived at 107 it was seemingly swamped with teenagers, so we opted for the adjacent Pete's Bar & Cafe, a neighborhood institution that seems like it's been there forever, with its lush interior and old black-and-white prints of the downtown of yesteryear, even if it opened less than a decade ago. I stepped out to find an ATM, something that took 20 minutes of wandering around desolate downtown blocks--like I was saying about those amenities--that, despite the postindustrial charms of the area, had me longing for a New York City bodega. By the time I returned, we had been joined by Ben's artist friend Beverly, who had arrived on her bike. Like Ball-Nogues, Beverly uses the computer to create much of her art, and the two got into a long conversation about the various design and rendering programs out there. As we shared Pete's delicious cheese fries, I sat back to revel in the excitement these two shared. My eyes glazed over due to jet lag, but it was mistaken for disinterest. Trying to bring the discussion back around, Ben expressed his frustration that all the SCI-Arc kids who only conceive of computers as a means to an end--usually some overly slick building--and not just another tool to realize a clever building. "It's why, in the end, we try and build everything by hand, to do all the fabrication ourselves," Ben insisted. "Architecture always has been, and always will be, a craft." Salut!