REX has released renderings of Brown University’s new Performing Arts Center (PAC), a 94,500-square-foot boxy building designed with a “radical vision” for the school that features a transformative interior production space. The massive institutional project, located in Providence, Rhode Island, is slated to open in spring of 2022. Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal and founder of REX, said the structure’s design is “extremely precise” in how it fits the needs of Brown students and faculty. His team created the main hall to physically adapt to several different types of performances that the students may put on. “It is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ auditorium, mediocre to all and excellent for none,” Prince-Ramus said in a statement. “It is literally five very specific, high-performance configurations in one.” What he’s referring to is the venue’s ability to be rearranged into a number of stage and audience setups, from a 625-seat symphony orchestra hall to a 250-seat proscenium theater to a surround-sound cube for experimental media performances. Using both automated and manually assisted performance equipment, the shoebox-shaped hall can change its flexible interior layout and acoustical design to complement the goals of a specific show. The concept echoes the flexible interior of the Wyly Theatre, one of REX's earliest projects. From the outside, the PAC loosely resembles REX’s design for the World Trade Center’s upcoming cultural space, the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center. Also a looming, solid structure, it commands attention and conceals its insides. Unlike the New York project's translucent marble facade, the Brown building features a seemingly-shrink-wrapped, extruded aluminum rain screen with a fluted shape. The metallic exterior is sure to stand out among the slew of historic buildings on Brown’s urban campus. Apart from the cladding, one thing, in particular, is majorly distinctive about the design: The PAC features a 13-foot horizontal “clearstory” window that slices through the building and cantilevers out over the exterior public space. This transparent cutout allows passersby to see directly into the main performance hall as well as the building’s lobby. REX integrated the glazed portion, which opens the structure up to Angell Street, the main thoroughfare in Providence, to spark curiosity and encourage both the public and Brown students to engage with the university’s arts scene. From the inside, visitors can enjoy expansive views of The Walk, a series of green spaces running north to south on campus. The new PAC's suite of modern studios dedicated to dance, music, and theater rehearsals, and intimate performance spaces for smaller gatherings will all be easily accessible from this pedestrian route. The PAC project was birthed out of the Brown Arts Initiative, introduced in 2017 as a way to elevate the university as an incubator for both traditional and experimental art and media. The PAC itself is the physical manifestation of that goal and a new arts typology in architecture, according to REX. With “radical spatial, acoustic, and technical flexibility,” it showcases within the design just how forward-thinking the arts at Brown can be.
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The Techstyle Haus is an 800 square foot fabric house that uses 90% less energy thanks to a high performance double skin membrane with integrated PV.Co-founded by Colin Touhey, Todd Dalland, and Robert Lerner, Pvilion is pioneering the design, engineering, fabrication, and installation of flexible solar solutions. For their 2014 Solar Decathlon project—a collaboration between RISD, Brown University, and University of Applied Sciences Erfurt (Germany)—Pvilion provided engineering consulting services on the structural design and membrane roof system. The project team questioned if a membrane roof house could be designed to meet strict passive house energy codes. The answer was a resounding yes—what came to be known as the Techstyle Haus is currently the only fabric structure that meets passive house standards, producing 50% more energy than it consumes. The house was originally constructed in Providence and then disassembled, placed in crates, and shipped to France for relatively easy re-assembly at Versailles. Currently, the Techstyle Haus resides at Domaine de Boisbuchet, the site of an annual art and design workshop, where it serves as a living laboratory and teaching tool as well as student housing. An in-depth video of the design can be viewed here. Colin Touhey, co-founder of Pvilion, said this project is a proof of concept for their flexible, scalable solar solutions. “Given the curvature of the form, the building produces more energy than flat or angled solar arrays.” Techstyle Haus was designed in concept to embrace a double skin tectonic. It’s PV modules are encapsulated in a thin sheet of plastic allowing for a lightweight assembly of shallow curves and folded surfaces. PV’s are typically very labor intensive as each 3’x5’ panel has to be individually wired. Touhey says by eliminating a significant amount of the “stuff” that goes into a traditional solar array can offer design flexibility along with cost savings: "the more that can be integrated into the off-site fabrication process, the cheaper and more effective the system will be. Also, we have found if you eliminate the frames from a PV, if you eliminate the glass from the PV, and if you laminate the PV into a light material, you can ship more of it in one container. All of these variables add up on a very large scale." Building Integrated Photovolatics (BIPV) have become an increasingly significant topic within the advanced building systems design and construction community. Rather than treating PV as an additive system requiring a separate metal support structure superimposed on a building’s roof, BIPV is an evolving practice of incorporating custom solar technology into the constructional logic of a structure. Often, BIPV projects see cost savings through the replacement of roofing tiles or other building elements with photovoltaic panels. The 2014 solar decathlon was held in Versailles, France, and included 20 prototype structures from 16 different countries. From these projects, 11 prominently utilized BIPV strategies. In addition to Pvilion’s flexible solar fabric, other approaches included cantilevered lightweight shading elements, solar-integrated glazing, a colorful lightweight PV roof, and numerous roof-mounted configurations. In a statistical analysis conducted by a team of researchers at Jaume I University (Castillo, Spain), and published by Advanced Building Skins GmbH, the Techstyle Haus was rated as one of the “most pleasurable BIPV solutions.” Robert Lerner, a co-founder of Pvilion, explains the value of lightweight solar fabric for large commercial applications: “we developed a way to put photovoltaic sheets as a secondary membrane onto a primary membrane. the primary roof skin will almost always be a costly, durable product. Consider a 50 year Teflon-coated glass fabric under very high pre-stress for long spans. Our lightweight membrane can be replaced in 20 years if necessary without affecting the roof below it." Half of Pvilion’s projects are facade-related while half are completely unrelated lightweight temporary and permanent structures—from outdoor clothing apparel to parking canopies and infrastructural projects. Touhey says their goal is to take the Techstyle Haus’ system—an interior skin, exterior membrane, insulation, PV, and wiring – and scale it up to a significantly larger context. Upcoming projects include the Artist for Humanity Headquarters in Boston—a renovation and expansion of and existing building into a structure 5 times as large as the original. Once complete, it will be the first net energy positive large commercial project on the East Coast. The building will feature a solar wrapper that doubly functions as a passive shading element integrated with flexible monocrystalline photovoltaic cells. Other applications include flexible installations on perforated aluminum and warped steel panels, both with free-form perimeters and curved surfaces. Lerner says this is where flexible solar technology shines, “This indicates the freedom of design that is possible while incorporating conventional facade materials."
With only one month remaining before Facades+ PERFORMANCE opens in Chicago, our exciting lineup of the industry’s leading innovators is gearing up for an electrifying array of symposia, panels, and workshops. Be there for this groundbreaking, two-day convergence of design and construction professionals, presented by AN and Enclos, coming to Chicago, October 24-25th. Join Chris O’Hara, founding Principal of Boulder-based Studio NYL, for his day-one symposium, “Ludicrous Speed: the Design and Delivery of Non-traditional Facades on a Fast Track,” and learn first-hand from the experts the technologies and fabrication techniques that are revolutionizing the next generation of high performance facades. Register today to redefine performance for 21st century architecture, only at Facades+ PERFORMANCE. After graduating with a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Notre Dame, Chris O’Hara began his career in New York with M.G. McLaren Consulting Engineers, where he was confronted with a host of unique structural engineering projects, from amusement park rides to New York’s Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History with Ennead Architects. Things really got going for O’Hara when he joined up with London-based Dewhurst Macfarlane Partners and began to work closely with visionary architect Rafael Viñoly. Leading high-profile projects like Viñoly’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburg and the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, O’Hara developed innovative structural solutions that allowed for the pioneering architect to exercise the breadth of his architectural expression. In 2004 O’Hara relocated to Boulder, Colorado to launch his structural engineering firm, Studio NYL, who have since become renowned for their diligent application of emerging technologies and inventive structural solutions. Their adventurous, detail-oriented work has drawn the attention progressive architects, both local and global, while O’Hara’s integration of multiple design software programs and use of complex geometries made him a literal poster-boy for Autodesk. In his daily practice, O’Hara oversees the use of BIM and other advanced analytic technologies and leads the design of innovative forms in BIM, REVIT, and direct-to-fabrication CAD/CAM softwares. Collaborating with fellow Facades+ presenters Rojkind Arquitectos, O’Hara has pushed the boundaries of structure and design on pioneering projects like the aluminum and glass enclosure of the Cineteca National and the digitally fabricated metal skin of Liverpool Flagship store in Mexico City. Designed and built in little over a year, the Liverpool Flagship store is a stunning product of international collaboration, technological instigation, and fast-paced delivery. Studio NYL lead the design for the structural elements of the atrium, rooftop park and pavilions, skylight, and stainless-steel facade for the 30,000 square meter shopping center. Using BIM software to coordinate the work of multiple trades on complex geometries, Studio NYL and Rojkind Arquitectos constructed the fluid folds and fine reliefs of the shopping center’s sound-blocking double-layer facade. Learn more about the secrets to delivering innovative, high-performance building envelopes on a tight schedule as O’Hara presents a series of dynamic new projects in his afternoon symposia, and don’t miss out as frequent-collaborator Gerardo Salinas, principal of Rojkind Arquitectos, presents his exciting keynote address earlier that day! Register now to cash in on our Early Bird Special, and check out the rest of the groundbreaking schedule of events at the full Facades+ PERFORMANCE site. See you in Chicago!
While some of the new architecture at Brown University is distinctly modern, Manhattan-based Selldorf Architects has been selected to bring back the historic charm of the circa 1910 English Renaissance John Hay Library. According to the Brown Daily Herald, the project was jumpstarted in February following an anonymous $3 million donation, plus another anonymous $6 million donation for the renovation from 2011. The Hay Library, which houses the university's rare books collection, archives, and other special collections, will be reconfigured to open up the grand 4,400-square-foot reading room to its original design by Boston architects Shepley Rutan & Coolidge. The room is currently divided into parts to securely store sensitive books. The larger space will allow more access to the public and can play host to larger university-related events. Librarian Harriette Hemmasi told the Daily Herald Selldorf Architects was chosen in part for their renovation of the Neue Galerie in New York. "If you’ve been in there, you know it’s really beautiful," Hammasi told the Daily Herald. "And it’s also really tastefully done, so it’s not just sort of sugary, drippy, old-fashioned. But it has sort of an edge to it, sort of a modern and old mix. And that’s what I envisioned for the John Hay, too." The year-long project is expected to get underway this summer.