Posts tagged with "Brooks + Scarpa":

Precast concrete and plaster find coherence in Cedar City Southern Utah Museum of Art

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“When you look around the building, it’s more about what you don’t see than what you do,” Larry Scarpa, founding partner of Brooks + Scarpa, said of the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) in Cedar City, Utah. The museum has no back facade and as such, the traditional mechanical requirements were approached intentionally to create the appearance of a smooth, unbroken surface. Located within the facade are many seamless concealed doors, masking the mechanical requirements. One precast panel on the east facade, facing the sculpture garden, swings out to reveal the mechanical room behind it. All of the lights in the plaster soffit are trim-less and appear more as apertures than additive elements.
 
  • Facade Manufacturer TAKTL (concrete panels), BASWA (acoustic plaster), Harper Precast (precast concrete)
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa (Design Architect), Blalock & Partners Architectural Design Studio (Local Architect)
  • Facade Installer Southam and Associates (concrete panels), Houghton Plaster (acoustic plaster)
  • Facade Consultants Van Boerum and Frank Associates (building envelope consultant)
  • Location Cedar City, Utah
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Concrete panel wall system, acoustic plaster soffit
  • Products TAKTL Architectural Ultra High Performance Concrete, BASWA acoustic sound absorbing plaster
The nearby sandstone landscape inspired the architecture, where the primary gesture of the roof echoes the geometry of a slot canyon. Brooks + Scarpa used this natural formation to generate a form that sheds water in the same way a canyon would shed water. They worked through several iterations and combined a slope analysis alongside a structural analysis to arrive at a final form that had the proper slope drainage and was optimally constructed. Rainwater and snowmelt follow the roof slope toward one of two slots on the east and west faces of the building. At the culmination of these two channels, where the channel meets the exterior walls, is a custom-fabricated precast concrete scupper that directs the water into a below-grade retention basin. The entire perimeter of the building is clad in five-eighths-inch thick precast concrete panels by Taktl in an open-jointed system. Everything behind the concrete is waterproofed and the rail mounting system is open to the air. The concrete panels hang with a consistent gap-joint to allow  for movement and expansion. Additionally there is a subtle curvature to the east and west facades that is not noticeable but, was detailed as a faceted curve to maximize the amount of flat, standardized panels. There were a few moments that called for a custom fabricated panel, namely one corner which has a filleted corner at the transition between two facades. The soffit of the building is constructed out of an acoustical plaster and fabricated in the field. The complex curvature of the soffit required intricate detailing of the x,y, and z coordinates to be constructed accurately. Following the lead of the exterior facade, the plaster expansion joints continue the lines between each panel. Initially, Brooks + Scarpa wanted to achieve a seamless transition between wall and roof. However, when they discovered this wasn’t possible they were forced to consider different options. Their solution was a quarter-inch flat aluminum channel that runs over both the TAKTL panels and the precast scupper to create a consistent cap where the wall meets the roof. There is a one-inch gap between the aluminum and the panels, however, the aluminum runs flat over the concrete scuppers. Conversely, where the concrete meets the plaster soffit, the plaster is held back the same one-inch dimension of the panels in a reveal. At the base of the facade, the concrete panels and acoustic plaster are held off from the ground in a similar dimension.

Utah museum by Brooks + Scarpa echoes the surrounding desert landscape

Cedar City, Utah—about two and a half hours northeast of Las Vegas and three hours south of Salt Lake City—is a diamond in the rough. Or in this case, in the mountains. It’s surrounded by peaks and foothills and is in close proximity to a staggering array of national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. Therefore, Brooks + Scarpa wanted to incorporate the timeless, yet eroded look and feel of these landscapes into its new building, the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA)—the newest piece of Southern Utah University’s Beverly Taylor Sorensen Center for the Arts campus. The vivid, white, 28,000-square-foot building, clad on its flanks with textured, ribbed concrete panels, indeed resembles many of these carved-out formations. Its most noticeable element is the sculpted roof that features a 120-foot cantilever protecting the museum’s 20-foot-tall west-facing glass curtain wall from solar gain and glare. It also creates a covered social and event space underneath. The underside of the roof is a continuation of the plaster surfaces inside the museum. “I wanted to make the museum’s interior available to people outside without going in,” noted Brooks + Scarpa principal Larry Scarpa, who calls the single ply roof, visible from almost anywhere around the museum, the museum’s “fifth facade.” The roof also collects snow and rainwater, pitching and bending into a canyonlike formation that funnels water and snow melt, without any drains, into concealed wells at the base of the structure, where they are collected and recharged back into the aquifer. The museum’s interior consists of a large, open orthogonal gallery space that can be easily divided via freestanding partitions. These will host traveling exhibitions, student and faculty shows, artists, and a permanent collection of landscape-inspired work by local painter Jim Jones. Smaller spaces edging this core include a large classroom, offices, and back of-house storage. One hundred percent high-efficiency LED lighting, green materials, drought-tolerant plantings, and a trigeneration system to create heat, electricity, and cooling in one process, all contribute to energy conservation. Brooks + Scarpa, along with landscape architects Coen+Partners, carried out the revised master plan for the five-and-a-half-acre, $39.1 million Sorensen Center for the Arts, which includes sculpture gardens, parks, a tree-filled allé, and exterior spaces for live performance and public use. Its buildings include the Engelstad Shakespeare Theater, the Randall L. Jones Theater, the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theater, and an artistic and production facility. “We wanted the facilities to have their own identities, but still work together as a single complex,” explained Scarpa.

Here are the winners of the 2018 AIA Honor Awards in regional and urban design

[Editor’s Note: This the third in a three-part series documenting the winners of the AIA 2018 Honor Awards, which are broken down into three categories: architecture, interior architecture, and urban design. This list covers the regional and urban design awards, but additional segments spotlight winners in architecture and interior architecture.] The American Institute of Architects announced its 2018 recipients of the Institute Honor Awards January 12. The 17 winners were pulled from approximately 500 submissions from across the globe and only three regional and urban design projects took home the prize. The designs range from the double-award winning Chicago Riverwalk, to frameworks for dealing with sea level rise. In one way or another, this year's notable topic was living with water. The five-person jury that selected this year’s AIA Regional and Urban Design Honor Award winners included:
  • Roger Schluntz, FAIA (Chair), School of Architecture and Planning, University of Mexico
  • Lisa Chronister, AIA, City of Oklahoma City Planning Department
  • Suzanne DiGeronimo, FAIA, DiGeronimo Architects
  • Tim Griffin, AIA, Minnesota Design Center
  • Gerry Tierney, AIA, Perkins+Will.
  Project: Chicago Riverwalk Architect: Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki Associates Location: Chicago From the AIA Jury: This is an exemplary urban intervention; the design and execution are perfect. The impact on the community is transformative. Project: Salty Urbanism: Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategies for Urban Areas Architect: Brooks + Scarpa, Florida Atlantic University and University of Southern California Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida From the AIA Jury: What a brilliant strategy that shows thought and sophistication. This is a series of toolboxes and frameworks giving each community a myriad of potential responses that could work for them as they work together. The nuanced, organic approach invites the community to really own a solution. These frameworks could be implemented in any community facing the dilemma of sea level rise. Project: Urban Watershed Framework Plan: A Reconciliation Landscape for Conway, Arkansas Architect: University of Arkansas Community Design Center Location: Conway, Arkansas From the AIA Jury: This was head to tail very rewarding. A thoughtful, sophisticated and holistic response to a recurring problem across the country.

Dancing geometry wraps new Brooks + Scarpa transit hub in Seattle

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The Angle Lake Transit Station and Plaza is a seven-acre, 400,000-square-foot mixed-use complex for Sound Transit, a public transit agency serving the Seattle metropolitan area. The project was awarded to Los Angeles–based architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa after an international design-build competition was held. It was completed earlier this year. With over 4,000 people living within a one-half-mile radius of the station, the project offers community-focused exterior and interior spaces such as specially designed drop-off areas, retail spaces, bike storage facilities, and electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Facade Manufacturer APEL Extrusions and Intermountain Industrial Fab
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa
  • Facade Installer Harbor Pacific/Graham
  • Facade Engineering Brooks + Scarpa, Lars Holte, P.E., Walter P. Moore
  • Location Seatac, WA
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System cast-in-place and post-tensioned concrete structure
  • Products custom-formed anodized aluminum panels
The transit hub is a seven-story, cast-in-place and post-tensioned concrete structure with an exterior facade that uses over 7,500 custom-formed blue anodized aluminum facade panels. Using ruled surface geometry, the undulating facade is formed by connecting two curves with a series of straight lines to form the surface of the facade. Each of the custom aluminum facade elements was designed and segmented into standardized sizes for the most efficient structural shape and material form, while maximizing production, fabrication and installation cost efficiency. This technique allowed the design team to work with complex curved forms and rationalize them into simple, cost-effective standardized components, making them easy to fabricate and efficient to install. The entire facade was installed in less than three weeks without the use of cranes or special equipment. The architects say the facade concept was inspired by William Forsythe’s improvisational piece, ‘Dance Geometry,’ where dancers connect their bodies by matching lines in space that could be bent, tossed or otherwise distorted. Translating this into construction, the architects explored how simple straight lines can be composed to produce implied curvature. “This idea lessens the need to think about the end result and focus more on discovering new ways of movement and transformations.” Ultimately, Brooks + Scarpa provided analysis, constructability, and digital documents for direct and automated fabrication. Working from the assumption that automated fabrication techniques would not be utilized in the project, one of the challenges of the project was to develop a workflow that would result in constructable, rationalized geometry. To achieve this, the project team worked closely with fabricators to translate digital ruled surfaces into segmented standardized sizes responsive to material requirements and fabrication efficiency. The bottom and top chords of the facade surface were segmented, which reduced their profile to measurable arcs for a pipe roller, or straight-line segments for standardized shapes. Beyond the facade, Brooks Scarpa’s plaza design caters both to transit users and the community at large by accommodating community events, such as festivals, farmers’ markets, art exhibits, and other outdoor public gatherings. Ornately designed seat walls, pathways, paving, native planting, and storm-water catchment features help to engage transit users as they move through the space, creating quiet places for social interaction while waiting for a transit connection. Beyond this plaza, the parking structure is designed to best practice standards for future adaptive reuse. These design features, along with specific energy-efficient materials and systems, allowed Angle Lake Transit Station and Plaza to be an Envision-certified sustainable mixed-use facility. Envision is a rating system similar to LEED, administered by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure for infrastructure projects.

Brooks + Scarpa’s Southern Utah Museum of Art opens

Anchoring the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts campus in Cedar City, Utah, Brooks + Scarpa’s Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) has opened to the public. The L.A.-based architects drew from the surrounding sandstone canyons of Mount Zion National Park for inspiration when designing the dramatically dipped roof and arched overhangs for the 28,000-thousand square-foot institution. Shaped like a canyon cutaway section, SUMA’s roof naturally funnels rain and snow out of the openings and into hidden wells, where the runoff returns to the aquifer below. The museum's facade is also clad in ridged, undulating panels that recall the texture of a sheer cliff face, while the smooth, sheltering underside is similar to rock that’s been worn away by erosion. Cantilevering out up to 120 feet on the west side of the building, the roof creates 6,000 square feet of lit public event space that eases the transition between the indoor and outdoor areas. Besides fostering outdoor social interaction, these extensions shade the interior of the museum and allowed large windows to be installed without exposing any of the artwork to direct sunlight. Because of this solar shading, the museum uses 30 percent less electricity than a comparably sized building. Inside, the museum is using what Brooks + Scarpa has called a “trigeneration” process that integrates heating, cooling, and electricity into a single system. Through the use of radiant heating and a ground-level air supply, the system acts as a natural heat pump that diffuses hot and cold air throughout the building as needed. Speaking to Interior Design, Lawrence Scarpa described how his studio approached the project from a context-first standpoint. "I had never been to Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park before being hired to design the Southern Utah Museum of Art in Cedar City, and the slot canyons were pretty stunning,” said Scarpa. “The way you get in and out of the parks, in fact, is through the canyons, and they reminded me of my design process. A bit like water that seeks its own path, eroding the stone, I start with a general idea, not really knowing where it’s going to take me,” he added. The winner of an AIA LA 2017 Citation Award, SUMA will host contemporary and modern visual art from across southern Utah and the surrounding Colorado Plateau. By integrating performance spaces, classrooms and hands-on conservation training for MFA students and faculty at Southern Utah University, the museum will also become a powerful tool for the local community.

Facades+ L.A. will bring together designers from west coast’s most innovative projects

On October 19th and 20th,  the Facades+ conference held by The Architect’s Newspaper will head to the L.A. Hotel Downtown in Los Angeles, bringing with it a series of insightful panel discussions centered around the west coast’s most innovative buildings and projects.   The conference panels will convene design leaders representing several of the region’s boundary-pushing practices and projects. Project types under consideration will include civic buildings, social housing complexes, architectural skins, and sports stadiums. The conference’s first panel will focus on the recently-completed Los Angeles Federal Courthouse building by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The energy-efficient project is designed with a ruffled perimeter glass curtain wall assembly outfitted with special baffles that dramatically cut heating and cooling loads for the structure. José Luis Palacios, Design Director of SOM’s L.A. office, and Keith Boswell, technical partner at SOM, will come together in a panel to discuss how the courthouse project came together. See AN’s review of the courthouse here. Many of the region’s most successful practices are socially- and culturally-driven, a dynamic that has resulted in a growing number of design-forward social housing projects across the region. Local efforts to address California’s homelessness crisis are spearheaded by the Los Angeles-based Skid Row Housing Trust, a non-profit supportive housing developer that focuses on design quality as an integral component of the re-housing process. The organization is helmed by executive director Mike Alvidrez, who will come together for a panel with architects Angela Brooks of Los Angeles-based Brooks + Scarpa and Nathan Bishop of Santa Monica-based Koning Eizenberg Architects to discuss attractive residential and community spaces that challenge the perception of supportive housing in L.A. AN recently reviewed Brooks + Scarpa’s The Six, a 56-unit supportive housing project developed by SRHT. The region is also home to a critical mass of young, digitally-driven design and architecture practices that are utilizing computer generated forms to push the limits of fabrication and construction. A third panel will bring together Doris Sung, principal of DOSU Studio Architecture, Alvin Huang, founder of Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA), and Satoru Sugihara, principal of ATLV, to discuss the relationship between architectural research and highly-specific skin assemblies. SDA recently completed work on the IBM Watson Experience Center in San Francisco, a project that utilized a CNC-milled aluminum panel system manufactured by Arktura to depict an abstracted "data narrative." The conference’s final panel will showcase California’s growing collection of contemporary sporting facilities, many of which are wrapped with provocative enclosures made from building components that highlight some of the advances in building envelope design and construction. The conversation will bring together Ron Turner, sports practice area leader and principal at Gensler, Sanjeev Tankha, principal at engineering firm Walter P Moore, and Lance Evans, senior designer at HKS, to discuss HKS’s City of Champions development for the Los Angeles Rams and Gensler’s Banc of California Stadium for the Los Angeles Football Club, among other projects. For more information on Facades+, see the conference website.

A bold form mixes public and private spaces in Brooks + Scarpa’s latest supportive housing project

The new 52-unit permanent supportive-housing project for formerly homeless individuals, many of them veterans, designed by Los Angeles firm Brooks + Scarpa, takes its name—The Six—from military slang for a person who “has your back.” The project is Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT)’s first outside Downtown Los Angeles, and it continues the organization’s very successful run developing functional, neighborhood-scale, and formally transformative housing.

From up the street, The Six immediately impresses; the nearly scale-less stark-white block and its oversized opening to the street reveal, as one gets closer, the human scale contained within. A main skeletal stair anchors the inside of a vast courtyard and draws the eye into the innards of the building. This attention to sequence, for Brooks + Scarpa principal Angela Brooks, is something her office imparts to each project, no matter the type or size. “Where’s the threshold between the neighborhood and your house?” Brooks asked. “If it’s just a single line, that’s too thin. We want it to be deep with a sense of public, semipublic, and then finally private [spaces] along the way.”

In a careful exercise of balancing transparency and security, Brooks + Scarpa’s design lives up to sentiment “I’ve got your back” by achieving a comfortable clarity in volumes that open up and lift residents above the street and neighborhood, simultaneously providing a sense of security and privacy.

When arriving at The Six, one cuts across the front yard—past planted, open areas set back from the street—landing under an expansive overhang that encloses a security entrance and a community- and computer-room cluster. Next, one transitions into a smaller space: a lobby that shares the floor with administrative offices, a conference room, a public computer lab, and parking. The second level, accessible by an elevator from the entry or via a concealed front stair, reveals the large public courtyard perched above the street.

From the courtyard level, the apartments and their circulation balconies stack up in a “U” formation four levels above, defining the supertall, breezy space within. Also on this level, a TV room with couches, laundry facilities, and a small kitchen fills out the public common areas. The building’s fundamental volumetric and formal gestures simultaneously work with its site orientation to maximize daylighting, exposure to prevailing winds, and natural ventilation.

The areas that can be seen from the outside are the most public of the common spaces offered to residents in the project, and their placement at the front—in the window seat—allows for a shared, privileged relationship to the street and suggests a powerful shift in dependence for the folks living at The Six.

Brooks said, “We made sure to construct a sequence of spaces that help you come into the site itself.… Once you get onto the second level, you see the street again in another way.” She added that by pulling the elevator and reception desk deep into the building, the designers allow “people to have some space and time through which to walk into something, to contemplate something, to think about something, to say hello to neighbors.”

It’s this simple and thoughtful implementation of careful and confident architecture that gives The Six its strong humanity of place. It’s a rare experience in Los Angeles, where the development process and its built manifestations typically find design opportunities in disposable surface treatments or hollow stylistic flourishes. With SRHT’s dedication to quality projects and real architecture, the organization will likely achieve more breakout projects in the near future thanks to the recent passage of initiatives, at the county and city level, that allocate resources toward preventing and ending homelessness.

If The Six can be a precedent moving forward, it’s likely SRHT will continue to provide L.A. more like-minded projects that are much more than a roof overhead.

San Fernando Valley poised to tackle homelessness with new $1.2 billion housing initiative

The San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles has a reputation as a quintessentially suburban enclave. But, as the inner-city areas of Los Angeles have begun to embrace the hallmarks of traditional urbanism—increased housing density, fixed-transit infrastructure, and a dedication to pedestrian space—the valley has found itself parroting those same shifts in its own distinct way.

One area where this transformation is taking shape is housing, specifically, transitional and supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals.

According to the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority, the number of homeless people in the San Fernando Valley increased by 36 percent last year. Though the increase was significantly lower throughout L.A. County overall last year, one thing is clear: The number of people without homes in the areas around Los Angeles’s urban core area is growing. A similar trend is playing out across the country. Not only are urban homeless populations being increasingly displaced out toward the suburban areas by gentrification, but greater numbers of suburbanites themselves are becoming homeless, as well, due to a fraying social net and systematic income inequality.

Dire though the situation might be, Los Angeles—and the San Fernando Valley in particular—is currently poised to make strides in re-housing currently homeless individuals living in quasi-suburban environments by building a collection of new housing projects across the city. That’s because this November, 76 percent of L.A.’s voters supported Measure HHH, the city’s Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond. The initiative will raise $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for the construction of up to 10,000 units of housing for the homeless. The victory represents a shift in collective perspective that goes hand-in-hand with changing urban attitudes: As transit, density, and pedestrianism spread, so too has a visceral awareness that the city’s homeless population has been wholly abandoned by society and that action is overdue.

The passage of Measure HHH represents an opportunity for architects to assert themselves in civic and cultural discourse at an incredibly meaningful scale. And as much as the valley has begun to accept increased density, so too is it likely to see its fair share of new transitional and supportive housing as a result.

Already, the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a local affordable housing provider known for its focus on design quality, has begun to expand into neighborhoods beyond Skid Row. The organization opened a new set of apartments designed by Los Angeles–based architects Brooks + Scarpa this summer in the MacArthur Park neighborhood just west of Downtown Los Angeles. The project, called The Six, is the group’s first development with permanent supportive housing specifically for veterans. The name of the complex comes from the military shorthand, “got your six,” which means “I’ve got your back.”

The complex is designed around a central, planted courtyard and is expected to receive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It features solar panels on the roof and ground-level supportive services for the residents, with a large public courtyard located on the second floor. Units rise up around the perimeter of the courtyard along a single-loaded corridor and are capped by a roof terrace and edible garden. The firm also calibrated the building’s architectural massing in order to respond to passive cooling and lighting strategies and features selectively glazed exposures as well as a courtyard layout that facilitates passive lighting and ventilation.

Another project under development by SRHT is Michael Maltzan Architecture’s (MMA) Crest Apartments in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. Crest Apartments will deliver 64 affordable housing units for formerly homeless veterans. The building is laid out as a long, stepped housing block raised on a series of piers above multifunctional hard- and soft-landscaped areas. The long and narrow site shapes the complex such that the building’s mass steps around in plan as it climbs in height, creating vertical bands of windows aimed toward the street and side yard in the process. The ground floor of the complex contains supportive service areas as well as a clinic and community garden. The building recently finished construction and residents are beginning to move in.

The future of housing efforts in the valley is also being tackled by students at University of Southern California (USC), where a studio funded by the nonprofit Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP) is aiming to develop a rapid-re-housing prototype to be deployed across the valley. The studio, formally unrelated to Measure HHH, is led by Sofia Borges, acting director at MADWORKSHOP and R. Scott Mitchell, assistant professor of practice at USC. The professors tasked architecture students with studying the spatial implications of homelessness at the individual person’s scale.

Ultimately, the studio, with nondenominational ministry Hope of the Valley as its client, developed the beginnings of a single-occupancy housing prototype that could be mass-produced and temporarily deployed to selected vacant sites in as little as two weeks. The cohort spent the semester meeting with officials in the city government, including the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, to work on an actionable plan for implementing their prototype. The students built a full-scale mock-up of the 96-square-foot unit for their final review and detailed plans for how the unit might be aggregated into larger configurations as a sort of first-response to help people transition from living on the streets to occupying more formal dwellings like The Six or Crest Apartments.

Brooks + Scarpa unveils designs for new Southern California Flower Market in Los Angeles

Los Angeles–based architects Brooks + Scarpa has revealed plans for the large-scale redevelopment of the 107-year-old Southern California Flower Market in Downtown Los Angeles. The proposal aims to replace the two existing industrial structures on a 3.8-acre site at 755 Wall Street with a mixed-use, podium-and-tower complex. The proposed redevelopment would consist of a low-rise podium tower that will house mercantile facilities for the existing flower vendors along the ground floor, with between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet of office space and stacked parking above, while a second building on the site will consist of a 14-story apartment tower. That tower would include 290 apartments plus an undisclosed number of affordable units and would overlook a solar panel-topped amenity level meant for use by building residents. Preliminary renderings released for the project show a colorful, gridded tower rising out of the podium, with two of the tower’s exposures clad in what partner Angela Brooks described to Los Angeles Downtown News as flower-themed murals. Brooks went on to explain some of the inspiration for the project, telling the publication, “It's the idea of using the flower. It's going to be very modern in its design, but we’re trying to honor the Flower Market through the art.” The Flower Market was originally founded in 1909 by Japanese-American flower growers in a nearby area and moved to its current location in 1923. The Flower Mart is still owned by the descendants of that original group of owners and the proposed redevelopment scheme is part of a regional effort to preserve Los Angeles’s industrial and mercantile functions and heritage while accommodating a new and furious spurt of urban growth. The recently-revealed 6AM project by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron has similar conceptual underpinnings, with a housing tower and mercantile areas sharing the same site. The project aims to break ground in 2018.

Four competing schemes for Downtown Los Angeles’ First & Broadway Civic Park

First there was the Grand Park, then Pershing Square decided to spruce things up with a design competition, and now four competing schemes for a third Downtown Los Angeles park were presented to the city in a public meeting this week. The proposals were from teams lead by AECOM, Brooks + Scarpa, Eric Owen Moss Architects, and Mia Lehrer + Associates with OMA and IDEO. The two-acre First & Broadway Civic Park will take over a full block in the heart of the L.A.’s Civic Center near City Hall and the Gordon Kaufmann’s Art Deco Los Angeles Times building. The overall greening of Downtown Los Angeles is consistent with its ongoing renewal. As such, each of the teams provided ample amenities in the park—canopies, cafes, music venues, movie screens—in addition to the standard fare of gardens, trees, and benches. AECOMmodel AECOM’s proposal takes iconic modernist landscape architect Garrett Eckbo’s 1946 Landscape for Living as a starting point, and then updates his California dream to be a collective experience. Hints of fifties modernism show themselves in the irregularly shaped lawn, which is framed by “The Wingnut,” which houses a gallery, and a 200-seat restaurant “The Paper Plane.” Undulating ribbons—green space above, amenities underneath—define Brooks + Scarpa's plan. The team suggests that the scheme is ecological with drought-minded plantings and integrated terraces and cisterns that lead to an expansive dry well. Hidden within the proposal is some programming sure to excite the design community: the Architecture and Urbanism Festival, a possible 3-month long curated event that would include temporary installations and public programs. Eric Owen Moss Architects, never a firm to shy away from odd forms, proposed a large cocoon-like structure dominates a rolling and grassy green space. Ready to compete with the nearby crowning towers of City Hall and the Times, EOM’s event pavilion seems equipped to screen films and host events. Mia Lehrer + Associates powerhouse team also includes OMA, IDEO, and Arup, among others. Their proposal takes food as its design driver. While the scheme shows a central paved plaza and side gardens lush with alien-ish shade canopies and mature trees, the main emphasis is on a multi-use pavilion building that includes a beer garden, a test kitchen, a restaurant, and an amphitheater. Presentation boards and models of the designs are on public display at the Department of Building and Safety at 201 North Figueroa.

Brooks + Scarpa’s Double-Skinned Research Center

Perforated steel and translucent glass balance privacy and pop.

For their Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) in Monterrey, Mexico, Metalsa, a global manufacturing firm that specializes in automobile and truck chassis, did not want just another factory. Rather, the laboratory and testing facility, located in a state-sponsored research park adjacent to the Monterrey airport, was to be a "showpiece," explained Brooks + Scarpa Architects principal Lawrence Scarpa, "not just for their clients but from a work environment point of view, and a sustainability point of view." Despite the many challenges inherent to building across the United States-Mexico border, the Los Angeles architects succeeded in delivering a LEED Platinum design wrapped in a striking double skin of translucent glass and perforated steel panels. The facility's uneven sawtooth profile is the product of both historical and contextual references. "They are an industrial company, and I always loved the old warehouses with the north-facing clerestories, designed back when there was no electric lighting," recalled Scarpa. "That was what I was thinking about before I even went to the site." His first visit to Monterrey confirmed his instinct. "The mountains there are really sharp and jagged like that—it was an immediate concept for the building," said Scarpa. Like their 19th-century antecedents, moreover, the clerestories provide daylight and allow hot air to accumulate high above the inhabited spaces, thus reducing reliance on artificial lighting and cooling. The resulting form had one major drawback, however. "The issue we were faced with was that the primary way you enter the building is from the west, so we would have a broad face in the worst possible thermal position," said Scarpa. To solve the problem of solar gain without sacrificing the sawtooth roofline, Brooks + Scarpa implemented a double skin with an outer layer composed of perforated steel panels. With a wraparound sunscreen in place, explained Scarpa, "we could have a translucent skin behind it, but could modulate light and heat gain."
  • Facade Manufacturer Kinetica
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa, Homero Fuentes, Centro de Diseño (architect of record)
  • Facade Installer Kinetica
  • Facade Consultants SPID Ingenieros (engineering)
  • Location Monterrey, Mexico
  • Date of Completion 2012
  • System perforated steel panels, translucent glass
  • Products Tiger Drylac coated steel with anodized silver super polyester, fluted glass installed with 3M VHB tape and Dow Corning 795 structural silicone
Several factors influenced the perforation pattern on the outer skin. It began as an abstraction of Metalsa's corporate identity, said Scarpa, but evolved to respond to programmatic requirements. Perforations of different sizes and densities reflect the need for more or less privacy. Areas related to proprietary research and development are more opaque, while the office spaces cantilevered over the transparent northwest entrance benefit from the additional daylighting allowed by broader perforations. CMI's translucent inner skin of fluted glass refracts light, preventing glare from interfering with computer-based work. To prevent the occupants from feeling trapped in a windowless box, the architects carefully modulated the distance between the envelope's two layers. "When you're on the interior, it doesn't just look like a blank wall," said Scarpa. "When you're on the inside, you can't see through it, but you can see shadows move on the translucent surface." Designing for an out-of-country client is bound to produce hiccups, and the Metalsa project was no exception. For instance, Brooks + Scarpa had initially imagined that the auto giants would fabricate the perforated metal skin in-house, but turned to another supplier when disrupting the company's manufacturing flow proved cost-prohibitive. The architects nevertheless made the best of the situation, streamlining their vision to fit the situation at hand. "The technology that was available to us in Mexico is not overly sophisticated, so from the get-go we decided to take a more simplistic approach, utilizing a multi-layered skin," said Scarpa. "It was easy to construct, and it's not difficult to understand."

Larry Scarpa on Los Angeles and the Building Envelope

With its combination of warm temperatures, low humidity, bright sun, and vulnerability to earthquakes and fires, Southern California presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges to facade designers and builders. "It's way more forgiving here than in most places," said Larry Scarpa, principal at Los Angeles-based Brooks + Scarpa. "I've been on design reviews in various parts of the country where you have to do things much differently with the building envelope. In Southern California you have a lot of freedom to explore things that you don't in other parts of the world." Scarpa and other AEC industry movers and shakers will gather in early February at Facades+ LA to discuss possibilities and trends in building envelope design, both in Los Angeles and beyond. Scarpa, who will deliver the afternoon keynote at the Facades+ conference series' Southern California debut, says that Los Angeles' temperate climate allows architects to simplify building envelopes, shifting resources from insulation and humidity control to lighting and materials. "Condensation is a big concern, but it's less of an issue here," he explained. "Generally speaking, we can be a lot less high tech with the actual wall construction. We then tend to spread it out: you still make it perform, but in a way where it's more like a rain screen." Southern California architects need not incorporate large thermal cavities, as at Herzog & de Meuron's Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis. The attendant freedom "becomes a way to deal with light in a much more significant way—how facades harvest light, or shade the building, or how you can make them function as public or private," said Scarpa. Brooks + Scarpa also use the flexibility engendered by their location to experiment with materials. "The materiality is a big thing for us," explained Scarpa. "We tend to use a lot of non-traditional building materials." The firm's Broadway Housing project, for instance, features a building skin partially clad with building blocks made from recycled aluminum cans. Benchmark Builders Showroom similarly incorporates an outer wall constructed from industrial brooms. "Because we have a certain amount of freedom here, we look to use ordinary materials in a way we're not used to seeing them," said Scarpa. Of course, Los Angeles is not all sunshine. Multiple active earthquake faults in the region place constraints on architects and builders. Earthquake codes require particular structural systems, which in turn impact the buildings' facades. "You wind up with large amounts of columns or moment frames. If you have glass or curtain walls, they're going to be exposed—you're going to see it. It's very hard to conceal it in a wall." To learn more about designing and building high performance facades in Southern California and worldwide, register now for Facades+ LA. More information, including a list of speakers and the complete lineup of hands-on dialog and tech workshops, can be found on the conference website.