Posts tagged with "Brutalism":

Placeholder Alt Text

Iconic Kenneth Treister–designed modernist Miami tower threatened

Miami has a reputation as a place that is supportive of adventurous architecture. It is home to several firms building internationally and its property developers understand the branding value of affixing design stars' names to buildings. It has, of course, been known for its winter holiday architecture going back to the 1920s and architects, for their part, seem more than willing to still build there and take a whack at a glass tower channeling South Florida’s blue sky’s, aqua water, and relaxed lifestyle. However, there was a time in the post-WWII period when Miami was less internationally focused on selling to international buyers and had a small group of local designers who tried to create another architectural aesthetic that the architectural historian Jean-François Lejeune calls ‘Tropical Brutalism.’ There is a building—known as Office in the Grove—that represents this earlier Miami aesthetic and, with its fate is uncertain, Docomomo US/Florida is asking for it to be designated as a historic architectural resource. It's is an eight-story hexagonal, concrete tower floating over a three-level, grass-landscaped pedestal and it's an example of that homegrown Miami style. It was designed in 1973 by the important Florida modernist Kenneth Treister, whose buildings are important in the urban landscape of South Florida, particularly in Miami and Miami Beach. Lejeune argues that the concrete style (arguably refined to its finest expression by Paul Rudolph on the west coast of Florida) intended to create openness in public buildings while responding architecturally to the climate, and is part of a larger argument about the style known as Brutalism. There quite a few of these public projects still in existence scattered around Florida. However, they are increasingly under attack as no longer relevant and are being reconfigured.Lejeune points, in particular, to The Miami Dade College campuses (1961) by Pancoast-Ferendino-Grafton-Burnham (with Hilario Candela as primary designer) as well as William Morgan’s Police Memorial Building (1971-75), both of which are in excellent condition. The explanation of how Brutalism was meant to be an expression of the notion of the public may be hard to understand today but was based on notions like patios, open air-circulation, monumental public entrances, and sheltered loggia "assertively conveying a nobility of public service in behalf of the law" as architect William Morgan wrote about his Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale (1976-79), now threatened. Lejeune points, in particular, to The Miami Dade College campuses (1961) by Pancoast-Ferendino-Grafton-Burnham (with Hilario Candela as primary designer) as well as William Morgan’s Police Memorial Building (1971-75), both of which are in excellent condition. The explanation of how Brutalism was meant to be an expression of the notion of the public may be hard to understand today but was based on notions like patios, open air-circulation, monumental public entrances, and sheltered loggia "assertively conveying a nobility of public service in behalf of the law" as architect William Morgan wrote about his Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale (1976-79), now threatened. As a commercial office tower, Office in the Grove is not a public building, yet it is significant for its conveyance of ‘publicness.’ This, along with many other respects, qualifies it for designation as a landmark. Besides its substantial street presence (at 2699 S. Bayshore Drive) it is among the first buildings to be constructed of post-tensioned concrete slabs and a completely prefabricated concrete facade. It features an important integration of architecture and landscape and is a building that integrated art into its concrete surface with styled period images of the Everglades. According to Docomomo US/Florida, "this was Miami's first office building to give the community an eye-level, landscaped grass berm as its facade." Office in the Grove also is one of Triester's best buildings and it would be a tragedy if it is left to the fate of developers. The hearing is September 5 and we will report on the application to preserve this important work of architecture. It will be held at the City of Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board's hearing at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr., Miami, FL 33133.
Placeholder Alt Text

Update: Renovation of Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center nears completion

UPDATE 8/8/2017: A new image of the Orange County Government Center surfaced on Twitter and sparked quite a discussion. That tweet has been embedded below; the original article begins after the break.
Since early 2016, when images surfaced showing the skeletal condition of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, construction has continued at a fast pace in the Village of Goshen, New York to renovate and expand the iconic Brutalist building. New pictures reveal the scope and scale of the renovations. This saga began in 2011 when the municipal occupants vacated the complex citing damages from Hurricane Irene and began the process of planning its remodeling. After Boston-based designLAB withdrew its proposal because of ethical concerns over the project’s scope, Rochester, New York–based Clark Patterson Lee took on the renovations. Against the almost united outcry of architects and preservationists, the county government ultimately decided to demolish roughly one-third of the complex and replace it with a new architectural appendage. The new wing cuts off access to the central courtyard from the outermost corners of the site and leveled much of the exterior site design, dramatically changing the building's relationship to the ground. Additionally, the corrugated concrete blocks from the facade were stripped from the reinforced concrete frame and replaced only after the interior walls and windows were gutted. The video below, from early April, shows construction in progress: In a meeting with the Orange County Building Committee in March of this year, Clark Patterson Lee presented a full set of floor plans. They show an extensive revision of the interior organization of space, favoring conventional double loaded hallways instead of Rudolph's more organic layout. The plans also indicate a subdued sectional profile that eliminates many of the dynamic elevational changes found in Rudolph's seminal sectional perspective drawing of the building. County officials were not immediately available for comment regarding their motivations for the interior refiguring or decision to demolish part of the historic structure. However, a recent report from The Warwick Advertiser does cite a county official who stated that the project would be done “on time and on budget.” For others though, discontent with the project persists. Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo US, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture, recently visited the site, calling the renovations a “cultural crime.” She also highlighted the precarious future for Rudolph's other buildings around the country, including Government Civic Center in Boston. As construction comes to an end, loyal disciples of the Brutalist style may elegize the Orange County Government Center such as Rudolph designed it; however, architects may yet find value in the final building as a cautionary case study for how to strategize future preservation efforts.
Placeholder Alt Text

The birthplace of Brutalism in the U.K. is at risk of losing its most outstanding concrete building

Dunelm House in Durham, U.K., more commonly known as the Durham Students' Union, is facing an ominous future. The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, "is minded to issue a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI).” A campaign, though, is trying to save the building. Durham University applied for a COI in April last year and then launched a competition calling for a redesign of the concrete structure. In December, Bradley neglected calls from Historic England to award the Brutalist, 51-year-old building Grade II listing status. The university argues that adapting Dunelm House would be too expensive, costing an estimated $18 million. For many, however, news of what appears to be the building's impending demise will be sad news. Brutalism has roots in Durham—Peter and Alison Smithson met there while studying architecture at Durham University. Aside from that quirk, Dunelm House has won significant praise. In its year of opening, the building won the 1966 RIBA Bronze Medal and the Civic Trust award. In their statement, however, the DCMS said: "Having considered advice, it has been decided that Dunelm House does not meet the special architectural or historic interest requirements for listing." Designed by the Architects’ Co-Partnership, Dunelm House was engineered by Ove Arup. In material and form, it compliments Arup's Grade I listed Kingsgate Bridge–a structure which was completed in 1966 also. Kinky detailings, such as the arrangement of chains found attached to the concrete are unique and fun (words not always associated with Brutalism). They are also a visual joke–way before postmodernism came along–of tying the building down. Slopes which make for great section drawings are in response to the topography of the site which dramatically veers down to the River Wear's banks. They also maintain views of the impressive 937-year-old Durham Cathedral which rises above the trees forming a landscape coalesced by the Kingsgate Bridge. Speaking to AN, post-war British architecture historian and author of Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism, Barnabas Calder reacted to the DCMS's statement:
This is very clearly a building which, as Historic England recommended, should be listed: It is a superb example of 1960s university architecture, in which Britain led the world. Even the university's own argument that it is too expensive to repair falls down on the fact that it will cost a good deal more to replace it with anything worth having. I can't understand why the DCMS has decided to overturn the advice of the experts at Historic England, and their statement does nothing to answer the question. Dunelm House is an exceptional piece of Modern architecture—sensitive yet bold, original yet full of rich references to the great architecture of its period... If the university thinks it can get half so good a new building on the same site for less than the cost of repairing Dunelm House it's living in a dream.
Christopher Beanland, author of Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings Around the World, also gave his thoughts on Dunelm House:
Clearly, it's a significant building that works in its surroundings. You look at it and initially think - yes it's aggressive, yes it's attention seeking, yet that part of the River Wear is a very peaceful place and the more time you spend there watching the students on bikes or in boats the more it seems friendly.
A petition to help save the building is available online here and naturally, there is a "Save Dunelm House" Twitter page.
Placeholder Alt Text

Brutalist Manhattan tower may be secret N.S.A. listening post

Local news sources, including The New York Times, are reporting that a 550-foot-tall windowless tower in Tribeca is being used as a "listening post code-named Titanpointe by the National Security Agency." The article was inspired by short film—dubbed Project X and first reported on by The Intercept_—that says Titanpointe was one of the facilities used to collect communications (with permission granted by judges) from international entities that have at least some operations in New York, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, as well as 38 countries. Construction began in 1969, and by 1974, the skyscraper was completed. Today, it can be found in the heart of lower Manhattan as 33 Thomas Street, a vast gray tower of concrete and granite. The brutalist structure, still used by AT&T and, according to the New York Department of Finance, owned by the company, is like no other in the vicinity.
Placeholder Alt Text

There's a ton of Brutalist architecture in Washington: Here's how to find it

The love for Brutalism is on the rise in the U.S., especially on the East Coast. In late 2015, the book Heroic compiled buildings in Boston built between 1960 and 1977. This was based on an exhibition of Boston’s concrete buildings at pinkcomma gallery, itself born from the city's architectural community move to save Boston City Hall. As more concrete looks destined for demolition, interest in Brutalism has swelled: Cue #SOSBrutalism and the like. Boston, of course, isn't the only Brutalist haven. Washington D.C. too is home to many post-war relics/icons (the choice is yours) and now a map is out to help you find them. When Blue Crow Media published their Brutalist London Map, they didn't disappoint. Now the British publishing firm has released another Brutalist map, "Brutalist Washington"—their fourth to date after their Art Deco London and Constructivist Moscow maps. Founder of BrutalistDC Deane Madsen was also on hand to help with the map, which features 40 examples of "concretopia" ranging from Harry Weese's Gallery Place Chinatown Metro Station to the Hirshhorn Museum and the Sculpture Garden by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). “As more and more examples of classic Brutalism face demolition by neglect, we hope that putting these examples of D.C.'s Brutalist architecture on the map will foster public appreciation that ensures their longevity," said Madsen in a press release. In post-war America, Washington D.C. witnessed a plethora of Brutalist architecture rise up in wake of the 1945 Redevelopment Act. Nathaniel Owings (of SOM) and Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei were the forebearers of the master planning process of the city, notably for the National Mall vicinity and Weese's subway station in the 1970s. The Brutalist Washington Map is available for $10.00.
Placeholder Alt Text

McKeldin Fountain is the latest Brutalist work to be pulverized in Baltimore

In Baltimore, contractors have begun demolishing a symbol of the city’s renaissance and the mayor who sparked it, the McKeldin Fountain at Pratt and Light streets. The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore has led the effort to tear down the fountain, named after former Mayor Theodore McKeldin, and replace it with a landscaped plaza that members argue would be a more welcoming gateway to the city. The fountain and adjacent plaza were designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas Todd, a founding partner of WRT, as part of the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor renewal area in the early 1980s. An example of Brutalist architecture made with a series of concrete prisms and walkways, the fountain is owned by the city and listed in the city’s official inventory of public art. It is dedicated to the former mayor who first proposed in 1963 the idea of rejuvenating Baltimore’s Inner Harbor waterfront. Members of Baltimore’s public art commission have questioned the demolition, saying they never agreed to de-accession the city-owned work, much less let it be torn down. But the city’s law department overrode them, saying the art commission serves only in an advisory capacity to the mayor, who supports the partnership and its demolition plans. Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation has not gotten involved in the controversy, saying the 1982 structure is not old enough to be considered for landmark designation or protection. Two pedestrian skybridges that were connected to the fountain were taken down more than a month ago. Last Saturday, crews with a spike-wielding excavator chipped away at the concrete piers on the fountain’s perimeter, reducing them to rubble. By the end of the day, the fountain appeared to be past the point of saving. Demolition activity is expected to continue on the triangular parcel through the month of November. After that, the Downtown Partnership plans to create a temporary park, which is expected to remain in place until funds can be raised for a permanent replacement. There has been talk about the city’s planning commission holding a design competition for the site, but no details have been disclosed. For now, Philadelphia landscape architect David Rubin has designed a temporary plaza after Ziger/Snead Architects and Mahan Rykiel Associates bowed out of the project. The Downtown Partnership is a private group supported by local businesses and its board meetings are not open to the public. Its president, Kirby Fowler, has said that some of the immediate corporate neighbors of the fountain believe it is an eyesore and should be replaced with a more attractive gateway to downtown. Fowler several years ago led the effort to tear down another work of Brutalist architecture in downtown Baltimore, John Johansen’s 1967 Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. Board members of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects have said they believe the McKeldin Fountain shouldn’t be razed until the city has approved a design for its permanent replacement and funds are in hand to complete construction. Fowler has said he wants the fountain gone as soon as possible, even if the partnership doesn’t have funds for a permanent replacement. The timing is also affected by the pending departure of the current mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is leaving office in December after deciding not to run for reelection. Voters will determine her replacement next week. The way the project has been handled has drawn criticism from members of the arts and design community, who contend the general public never had any real say in the demolition or what will  replace the fountain. “This is a victory for false nostalgia, fear of the future of the public realm, and the expanding mandate of government and design by nonprofit corporations instead of people,” lamented Fred Scharmen, a Baltimore architect and educator who has questioned the demolition and the lack of transparency in the decision-making process.
Placeholder Alt Text

Brutalist housing project, Europe's largest protected building, to be renovated within five years

The Park Hill housing project in Sheffield, U.K. has suffered a turbulent, roller-coaster ride since its completion in 1961. Now a listed building—the largest protected building in Europe in fact—Park Hill has been subject to scorn and adoration from politicians, architects, artists, musicians and residents. Park Hill is currently being renovated by developers, Urban Splash, who this month, announced that the project will finally be completed by 2022.

In 1945, British architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith began designing Park Hill; they drew from on Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation and Peter and Alison Smithson's unbuilt 'streets in the sky' concepts. Upon completion, Park Hill had a warm reception, receiving praise from the likes of Reyner Banham along with positive articles in national newspapers such as The Telegraph, The Times and The Economist.

Writing for the Architectural Review in December, 1961, Banham said:

Park Hill seems to represent one of those rare occasions when the intention to create a certain kind of architecture happens to encounter a programme and a site that can hardly be dealt ‘with in any other way, and the result has the clarity that only arises when - as in the Villa Rotonda - aesthetic programme and functional opportunity meet and are instantly fused. But what Park Hill abundantly demonstrates is that there are other kinds of architectural clarity besides the Classical.

By the 1980s, however, the area had become notorious for attracting trouble. Flats had become rundown and Park Hill was synonymous with drugs and crime with this being down to a number of complex reasons including "poor management, deindustrialisation and better council housing stock in other areas of the city." Sheffield City Council then decided to award the estate—as public housing projects are known in the U.K.—protective Grade II Listing status in 1997. The move proved controversial among locals and the general public alike.

Four years later, a bridge within the complex was infamously vandalized by a man only known as Jason (not this author.) His painted message of "I LOVE YOU WILL U MARRY ME,"* scrawled in white and visible for miles, stirred journalist Frances Byrnes to eulogize it as "love yelling at the top of its voice in an estate thought to be desolate." Upon first sight of the message in 2001, estate caretaker Grenville Squires remarked: "How are we going to get that off?" Squires never found a way. Unbeknown to Jason, his work was later showcased at the 2006 Venice Biennale. Now, the vandalism-cum-artwork has found permanency through British architecture firms Hawkins\Brown and Studio Egret West. They're working with Urban Splash to trace and illuminate the text with neon lighting.

Cut to today: Urban Splash said that, after agreeing on a timeline with city officials, their ongoing work on Park Hill is due for completion in 2022. The work will continue with the gutting of the concrete structure and with the installation of new apartments. "This is great news for us and for Sheffield, we can now fulfill our ambitions for the project," said Simon Gawthorpe, managing director of Urban Splash, who later added how the recession had caused delays to the project.

In 2013, work on Park Hill was one of six projects up for the RIBA Stirling Prize. Approximately 600 people now live and work in renovated Park Hill units and, by the project's conclusion, the it will contain 210 apartments and 330 student housing units. Also funding the scheme are the Sheffield City Council, Great Places Housing Group, and national conservancy group Heritage England.

Despite Park Hill's success, the Robin Hood Gardens estate in south east London has not enjoyed a similar fate. Designed by the Smithsons and built in 1972, the project saw the realization of the Smithson's streets in the sky project (on their own terms). The building, however, even after campaign work from Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers, is due for demolition having been refused Listed status by Heritage England.

*For the record: Jason's then lover, Clare Middleton, said yes but the couple didn't marry, splitting a month later. More on the story can be found here

Placeholder Alt Text

A new documentary—now being crowdfunded—explores the fate of a British "New Town" utopia

The word "Basildon" does little to conjure  thoughts of paradise. For those who know it as a town in Essex, England, this association could only seem ridiculous. Fifty years ago, however, Basildon—a state-built "new town"—was synonymous with the utopian dreams among planner and architects. "Are we a product of our environment... or is it a product of us?" Christopher Ian Smith asks in a preview of his documentary film. Titled New Town Utopia, his exploration of Basildon's fate—four years in the making—now needs $21,000 for post-production, marketing, and distribution requirements. The feature film aims to examine British social history through the lens of Basildon's architecture, planning, and its creative residents. By way of some background, "New towns" were the product of the U.K. government, which aimed to fix a nationwide housing shortage after WWII. In 1946, the "New towns act" was passed to create ten new towns. Eighth in-line was Basildon, being officially designated as such on January 4th, 1949. "Here is a journey through populated ruins," narrates Smith, who's been filmmaking for some years. "It's the story of the grand dreams of the new town... compared to harsh concrete realities." Smith spoke to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) about his motivations for the film and his experiences while shooting Basildon. Now living in London, Smith said how growing up in the town was an inspiration. "It felt different," he explained. "I enjoyed the art, architecture, sculpture, and especially the high street. I've succumbed to loving the aesthetic of midcentury brutalism and the ambitions behind it. The utopian ideals behind planning and architecture at the time were considered progressive. In the 1950s and 60s, risks were taken. The spirit of '45, with nationalization and the National Health Service, lived on."
However, Smith acknowledged that these radical ideas—when attempted on an architectural and planning scale in Basildon—have wilted significantly over time. "The place has a terrible reputation, both locally and nationally," he said. Local civic pride, according to Smith, appears to be dwindling. With his film, Smith hopes to spark a "debate of the state of our towns" and "not just new towns." When filming parts of the high street and Basil Spence's Brooke House—both architecturally-prominent landmarks within Basildon—Smith recalled being asked: "Why are you filming that? Are you going to knock it down?" No one even goes to Basildon on holiday. In the 1970s, Basildon was dubbed as "little Moscow-on-Thames," Smith described. A decade later, the phrase "Basildon Man" had surfaced. That image was of the well-to-do working-class Conservative voter—a far cry of the leftist ideologies of the past and its architecture. This was cemented when Tory MP David Amess won the Basildon constituency seat in 1983 and was able to hold it for 14 years. In his conversation with AN, Smith concluded that in the end, "top-down planning" was endemic to its failure. In the process of collating more than 400 hours of footage of the town, Smith goes so far as to argue that few—if any—would ever visit Basildon for fun.  His Kickstarter campaign has until September 26 this year to have funding finalized. The film, if realized, will be complete by March 2017.
Placeholder Alt Text

Brutalist library by Ralph Rapson to be saved and renovated in Minneapolis

Another brutalist building is being saved, this time in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the library staff of Hennepin County has recommended that the jurisdiction’s Southeast library, a 1963 building designed by Ralph Rapson in the brutalist style, be renovated rather than replaced. The work is scheduled for completion by spring of 2019. The building at 1222 4th Street SE opened as the home of a credit union and was converted in 1967 to a library branch, making in an early adaptive reuse of a Brutalist building. According to the Star Tribune, the recommendation to save and modernize the building came from Library Director Lois Langer Thompson and still must be approved by the Hennepin County Board. The decision drew praise from County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. "We have a chance to get more space, save a historic building and get this building in shape for the 21st century," he told area residents at a recent community meeting, according to the newspaper.
The building contains about 13,000 square feet of space on a roughly half-acre site. Experts who evaluated the structure found it to be in relatively good condition but in need of underground stormwater tanks, new mechanical systems, and new skylights. One advantage to reusing the current site, officials said, is that it’s central to the library’s service area and served by mass transit. Born in Alma, Michigan, Rapson practiced architecture in Minneapolis from 1954 to 2008, when he died at 93, and for many years headed the architecture program at the University of Minnesota. As head of Ralph Rapson and Associates, he designed the Guthrie Theater, which has been demolished, the University of Minnesota’s Raring Center, and a wide range of churches and residences, including a Case Study house for Arts and Architecture magazine. Much of his work, like the Southeast library, involved exposed concrete. With the library director’s recommendation, the county must next select an architect to prepare a schematic design for the renovation. The County Board has allocated $12 million to the project. Hennepin County is responsible for decisions involving Minneapolis libraries because it absorbed the city library system in 2007. Visit here to see more of our recent coverage on the preservation of brutalist buildings, including those in Lawrence, Kansas, Reston, Virginia, and Boston.
Placeholder Alt Text

Demolition approved for Virginia’s only Breuer building

The former American Press Institute (API) building, Virginia’s only building designed by architect Marcel Breuer and a noteworthy example of brutalist architecture in the U.S., can be demolished to make way for a residential development, under a ruling made Tuesday by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The board voted unanimously to allow rezoning of a parcel in Reston, Virginia that contains the former API building, a 1974 structure designed by Breuer, and to permit its destruction to make way for a replacement project. Preservationists and historians have argued that the vacant API building on Sunrise Valley Drive is a significant example of Breuer’s work and should be recycled, possibly as a regional library or home for a nonprofit organization. They contend the Breuer building should be saved because it was the first building in Reston designed by an internationally prominent architect, that it was a significant example of Breuer’s sculptural use of precast concrete panels, that it was important in developer Robert Simon’s early plan for Reston, and that it was associated with a long list of noteworthy journalists. More than 1,600 people from North America, South America, and Europe have signed an online petition to preserve the building. Earlier this month, public officials in Atlanta voted to save and renovate Breuer’s central library building there, after it was proposed for demolition. “Fairfax County is fortunate to have a building of such stature designed by a world class architect,” said Carol Ann Riordan, a former API executive who heads a group that mounted an effort to save the building. “It deserves far more than a demolition permit.” The county’s Planning Commission last month voted not to recommend demolition of Breuer’s building, giving preservationists hope that it might avoid the wrecking ball. But county officials said the API building is not protected by any landmark status, that its significance was not noted when planners prepared a plan for higher density development in the area, and that the county has no funds to save it. Supervisors also noted that the housing proposal, by Sekas Homes, is consistent with the county’s plans for Reston and had to be considered on its own merits. Riordan said today that her group will not appeal the decision. “Mounting a legal campaign like that would be costly,” she said.
Placeholder Alt Text

Gould Evans transforms Brutalist library into community hub

facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from YKK_234x60_static
 
With declining public interest in an outdated 1970s exposed concrete library in Lawrence, Kansas, Gould Evans worked closely with residents, downtown neighborhood groups, and the library to establish primary goals for a renovation that sought to cover a broad base of community interests. Out of this extensive dialogue, the project team identified a design concept that promoted better contextual awareness between the library and the city through a new main entryway, a more functional threshold between the library and the surrounding community, and improved energy performance. After an extensive energy modeling and analysis on the existing structure by Syska Hennessy Group, it was discovered that the building lost significant energy and lacked adequate levels of daylight due to the arrangement of exposed concrete fins that acted like a giant radiator during hot days. In response, the architects addressed performative issues and community desires with a “re-skinning” strategy that wrapped a continuous reading room around the original structure. The facade, clad with a continuous insulation barrier and a terra-cotta rainscreen system, was envisioned as a highly contextual element interfacing directly with the city. The new addition opens up to a park on the north side, while providing a new community plaza along the south elevation. Along the west facade, access to an aquatic center across the street allows the library to be easily accessed by children before and after swim meets. The main entrance is located along the east of the building, which fronts a pedestrian-oriented urban context.
  • Facade Manufacturer NBK Architectural Terracotta
  • Architects Gould Evans, (original in 1972 by Robertson, Peters Ericson, Williams P.A.)
  • Facade Installer Drewco
  • Facade Consultants Bob D. Campbell and Co., Inc. (structural engineering); Syska Hennessey Group, Inc (sustainable design); Professional Engineering Consultants, PA (mechanical engineering)
  • Location Lawrence, Kansas
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System terra-cotta rainscreen
  • Products NBK (terra-cotta rain screen): Terrart-Mid, smooth and sawtooth profiles; EFCO (storefront and curtain wall glazing): S433 Storefront, S5600 Curtain Wall; Solatube (solar daylighting system): 750 DS
Formal bends, folds, and apertures of the facade assembly facilitate the structure. Terra-cotta was employed as the predominant exterior finish material by the project team to provide a modern update to adjacent historic red brick facades of Lawrence dating back to the late 1800s. The one-by-five-foot terra-cotta rainscreen panels are hung off an aluminum clip system in front of a continuous insulation barrier and trimmed cleanly at the perimeter with one-fourth-inch aluminum plate. Contrary to the imperfections of brick modules, terra-cotta is engineered with a high tolerance through controlled machining processes. Gould Evans showcases this precision through its facade design, which specifies panels in two textures: smooth and grooved. A sense of variation and depth is produced from shadow lines generated by the textured panel, which appears slightly darker than the smooth panel despite their precisely similar coloration. Windows fit compositionally into the panelization of the facade, and include terra-cotta baguettes that perform as solar louvers. Particularly notable is how the new addition interfaces with the existing structure. Utilizing the mass of the concrete building, the new addition literally hangs off of the old library along the west facade where a new column-free book deposit drive through window is located. A primary steel framework sits above the existing roof plane, creating a continuous row of clerestory windows opposite the primary exterior facade. Opening up opposing walls to natural daylight minimizes glare—essential to the reading function of the space—by creating an even distribution of light. The original facade, a series of concrete fins now along the interior of the building, is codified with a cladding of a tongue and groove ash wood. Where the public interfaces with library services, such as account assistance, stacks, children's cubbies, private meeting spaces, and the central sorting machine, the ash is selectively removed to expose an underlying concrete structure. The project is currently undergoing LEED certification. After expanding the library by 50 percent, the design team reduced energy loads on the building by nearly half. This achievement is all the more impressive when considering the original systems of the building were left in place to reduce the embodied energy of a full replacement. The building has recently been recognized with a Landmark Libraries Award by Library Journal, as well as the Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture by AIA Kansas.
Placeholder Alt Text

Endangered Marcel Breuer building gets a reprieve

For once, a Brutalist building gets a stay of execution. The Planning Commission in Fairfax County, Virginia, overruled its own staff recommendation yesterday and voted not to approve a developer’s request to rezone land in Reston so a developer can tear down the only Marcel Breuer-designed building in Virginia to make way for residential development. The planning department staff had recommended demolition of the former American Press Institute headquarters on Sunrise Valley Drive, a 48,000-square-foot building that opened in 1974, and rezoning of the land to make way for multi-family housing. The planning commission voted 6 to 6 on the question of rezoning the property for residential development, and that was not enough for the developer to obtain a demolition permit. Technically, it means that the planning commission forwards the developer’s rezoning application to the county Board of Supervisors with a negative recommendation. The vote came at the end of a sometimes heated hour-long discussion about the importance of the Breuer building and the groundswell of support it has received from preservationists, including an online petition signed by more than 1,300 people from as far away as Europe and South America. Several of the commissioners said they were impressed that the building was getting international attention and so many people wanted to see the building saved. Before the meeting, the commission received a flood of letters, emails and other materials from groups that want to see the building preserved, including the American Institute of Architects and New York architect Robert Gatje, who worked with Breuer for many years. “The world is now aware that this building exists,” said commission member Julie Strandlie. Commissioner James Hart, who studied architecture at the University of Virginia, said he was impressed by a site visit to the building that the group took on June 2. He said the building is in good shape and raved about the acoustics in the conference room. “I was favorably impressed by the use of natural light and shadows,” he said. “It brought the outside indoors” to the extent that some rooms “appeared to have trees in them,” he said. Hart also said the county was wrong not to recognize the Breuer building’s significance. “This was a major screw up,” he said. “I hope this is a wake up call to us that we need to make sure something like this does not happen again.” The commission also voted unanimously to direct the Board of Supervisors staff to conduct a countywide survey of properties to make sure there are no other buildings that deserve protection but don’t have landmark status. Preservationists had argued that the Breuer building should be saved because it was the first building in Reston designed by an internationally prominent architect, that it was a significant example of Breuer’s sculptural use of precast concrete panels, that it was important in developer Robert Simon’s early plan for Reston, and that it was associated with a long list of noteworthy journalists. Carol Ann Riordan, the last director of the American Press Institute (while the organization was in Reston) and founder of a group formed to save the building, praised the commission for its decision not to approve demolition. She said her group wants to see the Breuer building preserved and reused, perhaps by another non profit. “We’re all very pleased and elated that the planning commission took this stance, which was a very brave stance,” Riordan said. “It is an architectural treasure and deserves a second life. It’s part of Reston’s rich tapestry. There is still much work to be done. But the end game is that the API building had a mission—lifelong education, transformation, building community—and we would like to see it passed on to another group that has a mission along these same lines.” Riordan said she was most impressed that planning commission members admitted that the county “screwed up” in not recognizing the significance of the Breuer building and then voted not to support the demolition rather than letting the building be torn down anyway. “It takes a lot of guts to say ‘we screwed up,’” Riordan said. “I find that very courageous.”