Posts tagged with "Bing Thom Architects":

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Bing Thom, 1940-2016

Because we live and practice in New York and travel extensively we consider ourselves highly cultured and knowledgeable. But actually we are quite parochial, a fact that sadly struck a chord when Bing Thom passed away. He would serve on our juries and our boards, revered and consulted for his opinion. However, despite the fact that his firm received the Canadian Architect Firm Award in 2010 and he won the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal in 2016, he was off our radar. Even when he was recently invited to compete for a design at Lincoln Center, he was very excited about the potential project and actually started looking for an office in New York. But he may have been too much of a “dark horse” and didn’t get the commission. 

This is unfortunate. One need only look at the skyline of Vancouver to see solid evidence of his talent. From the moment he cut his teeth with Arthur Erickson on the Robson Square Courthouse Complex to his most recently completed Guilford Aquatic Center in Surrey, his sculpted roof forms shaped the city’s civic and cultural spaces. He was gifted at taking disparate functions and resonantly melding them in a way that was creative and technologically innovative without appearing so. Next door to the Aquatic Centre, for instance, is the Surrey City Centre Library, probably one of the earliest buildings programmed through social media primarily to speed up the normal process, so that the library would not lose its public funding. 

Because we are a small profession, there are often clear lines of succession. Bing was no exception. Even though he was born in Hong Kong and fled to Canada as a child in 1949 when the Communists took over, once he landed in Vancouver and decided to become an architect, it didn’t take long for him to become noticed by Erickson, his professor at the University of British Columbia. He went on to receive his Masters of Architecture from Berkeley in 1969. Then he moved to Japan to work for Fumihiko Maki, returning to Toronto to join Erickson on Roy Thomson Hall. The studio he opened in 1982 was very much in the spirit of the work of his two mentors as Bing took on large public projects and became known for his approachable, open creative style. 

His portfolio is extensive and global; it includes many theaters and The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver was one of his earliest. The concert hall is reputed to sound magnificent, owing to a large concrete acoustical canopy, making it tower over every other building on campus. He artfully camouflaged this by a stand of cedars. For Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage, the roof became his medium, defining and enveloping the two existing theaters and the experimental one he added. Currently under construction is the Xiqu Centre in Hong Kong, which will house the Chinese Opera.

A laundry list of his other major buildings would surely include the Canadian Pavilion for the 1992 Expo in Seville, Spain, which was entirely clad in zinc and featured a naturally cooled entertainment area. It would also include the master plan and subsequent commission for the Tarrant County College Downtown Campus in Fort Worth,Texas. And it would definitely feature the University of Chicago Campus in Hong Kong, slated to open next year. 

I knew Bing very briefly and very recently. He came to New York and spoke at the Center for Architecture last spring. He was a lovely man in person, full of passion, thoughtfulness, intelligence, generosity of spirit, and a belief in the power of architecture to transform. I am grateful that we filmed the evening and very sorry that that will be all we have.

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Architect Bing Thom passes away at age 75

Vancouver-based architect Bing Thom died today. According to CBC News, he was traveling in Hong Kong and suffered a brain aneurysm. Born in Hong Kong, he immigrated to Vancouver in 1950, according to Historica Canada. He studied architecture at the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley. Before opening his own Vancouver firm (Bing Thom Architects, in 1981), Thom worked in the offices of Arthur Erickson and Fumihiko Maki. As CBC News reports, it was his Chan Centre for the Performing Arts that helped put his practice on the map. Bing Thom Architects' accolades include the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada's Architectural Firm of the Year (2010) and Gold Medal (2011). His firm issued a statement, which included: "Bing Thom was one of Canada’s most admired and accomplished architects, a dedicated and artful city builder whose global reputation was closely tied to Metro Vancouver, a region he cared for deeply and did much to protect and to improve.... Bing Thom was a mentor to so many architects young and old, sharing his values and passion for creating beautiful spaces and places that better communities." According to the statement, his wife, Bonnie Thom, was at his side when he passed. The firm also writes: "Messages of condolences sent to office[at]bingthomarchitects.com will be shared with family and staff."
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Big names short-listed for Canadian Canoe Museum project

Everyone's favorite canoe museum, the Canadian Canoe Museum in Ontario, Canada, is expanding. The museum has short-listed six firms to design its new facility at the Peterborough Lift Lock National Historic Site. The canoesuem (our word, not theirs) paddled its way through 90 submissions before settling on the finalists which come from Canada, the United States, and Ireland. The Peterborough Examiner reported that Richard Tucker, the canoesuem's executive director, wants the firms to team up with local architects who can make site visits and meet with local officials. Drawings are due on August 11, and a winner will be announced in the fall. The finalists are Kohn Pedersen Fox from New York City; Heneghan Peng Architects from Dublin; 5468796 Architecture from Winnipeg; as well as three teams—Bing Thom Architects from Vancouver and Lett Architects from Peterborough; Provencher_Roy from Montreal and NORR from Toronto; and Patkau Architects from Vancouver and Brook McIlroy from Toronto.
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Bing Thom Architects Takes the Stage in Washington, D.C.

A timber-backed glass facade provides transparency, acoustical isolation, and resiliency for a historic theater complex in the nation’s capital.

When the Mead Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. hired Vancouver-based Bing Thom Architects to double the institution’s square footage without disturbing two historic theaters designed by treasured architect Harry Weese, it was clear to firm principal Michael Heeney that standard solutions would not suffice. For one, the theater facilities were insufficient and outdated. More troublesome, however, was the fact that passenger jet liners taking off and landing at Regan National Airport across the Potomac River were so loud they were interrupting performances. The architects had to find a solution to mitigate this cacophony both for the existing structures as well as for the expansion—a new theater called Arena Stage. “We had to achieve acoustical separation and isolation from exterior noise in a way that was respectful and maintained the integrity of the original structures,” Heeney told AN. Building off an approach that originated from a project in Surrey, British Columbia, the design team decided to wrap the triangular-shaped complex in glass with timber column supports, topped off with a 500-foot cantilevered roof. With the help of structural engineers at Fast + Epp and facade consultancy Heintges, the team extrapolated the Surrey solution to provide even greater transparency for the existing Weese theaters, Arena Stage, and a variety of mixed use spaces totaling 200,000 square feet.
  • Facade Manufacturer Icon Exterior Building Solutions, DuPont, Viracon, StructureCraft
  • Architects/Consultants Bing Thom Architects, Heintges, Fast + Epp, StructureCraft
  • Location Washington, D.C.
  • Date of Completion late 2010
  • System timber-backed glass curtain wall with Krypton-filled insulated glass units
The system features a series of columns milled from parallel strand lumber to taper at the base with an ellipse-shaped section. Each column stands between 45 and 63 feet high with a diameter of 22 by 32 inches. Spaced on 36-foot centers, the columns effectively support the dead load of the glass curtain wall in addition to the weight of the roof overhead. The total perimeter of the complex measures approximately 650 feet in length. The base of each column tapers to a painted cast iron base featuring an ellipse-shaped cutout. “There’s enormous force coming down through those columns, but we articulated it gracefully like a ballet dancer en pointe,” said Heeney. The columns tilt four degrees to minimize glare. Icon Exterior Building Solutions custom designed and extruded the aluminum-framed curtain wall with 12- by 7 ¾-foot trapezoidal insulated glass units. A ½ -inch krypton-filled space is sandwiched by a 3/8-inch outer glass pane with a low # coating on the No. 2 surface, and a ¼-inch inner lite for optimal acoustic insulation. The entire system hangs from ½ inch steel cables connected to a structural steel top truss. Lateral loads are handled by a horizontal paralam mullion system (9 inches deep, 3/12 inches thick, 12 feet in length) that ties back to the columns with 5- to 6-foot paralam struts, depending on the curvature of the glass. “Normally with a curtain wall, you build the structure and it comes after, but here we used the columns to take the structure in addition to the glazing,” explained Gerry Epp, partner at Fast + Epp and president of StructureCraft. “It’s a super efficient scheme because we executed the structure at the same time as the facade.” According to Heeney’s estimation, the Mead Center’s large-scale commercial timber-backed glass facade was the first of its kind in the US and has performed beyond the designer’s expectations. When a 5.8-magnitude earthquake rattled the D.C. area in 2011, the glass curtain wall swung with the earth’s motion and then settled back into place. “Even though it’s not seismically designed, I think the West Coast designers’ inclinations made it inheritantly stable,” Heeney mused.