Newport Beach's central government complex emphasizes transparency, sustainability.Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's (BCJ) Newport Beach Civic Center is in one sense classically Southern Californian. With its light steel structure, plentiful windows, emphasis on indoor-outdoor spaces, and roofline inspired by ocean waves, it evokes a timeless delight in Pacific coast living. But it also represents something new, both for the city of Newport Beach and for civic architecture more generally. Built on a marshy site that had previously been written off as uninhabitable, the LEED Gold Civic Center and adjacent 16-acre park, designed by BCJ in cooperation with PWP Landscape Architecture, acts as a different kind of anchor for the automobile-oriented community. "It was shaped in part by a desire to create a great public space," said principal in charge Greg Mottola. "How do you make an urban civic space in the context of the suburbs?" The architects choreographed the Civic Center's entry sequence to transition from highway speeds to the pedestrian scale. The freestanding Council Chambers sits at the entrance to the complex, its white Gore-tex fabric "sail" doing double duty as sunshade and visual trademark. "The sail was really a way to help people understand the Civic Center at 40 miles per hour," said project manager Steve Chaitow. "You turn in there, and as you slow down the scale of the project begins to become more fine-grained." Past the Council Chambers and neighboring community room is the long, low City Hall building, which upends the traditional emphasis on monumentality in favor of democracy. "One of the key issues was the metaphorical and literal transparency of government," said Chaitow. The focus on transparency is expressed both in City Hall's plan, which eschews a grand lobby in favor of outdoor circulation and separate entrances for each department, and its glass facade. To create a public front porch for the building, BCJ covered each bay with a curved roof composed of whitewashed hemlock soffit on a steel frame. The panels provide crucial shading for the east-facing curtain wall, which opens onto the Civic Green. "That roof overhang is 20-30 feet, it's really out there," said Chaitow. "That's what allowed us to have this facade of glass and not pay a penalty." Custom horizontal aluminum louvers on the curtain wall's lower level furnish additional protection against thermal gain. The architects worked with Arup to study the structure blade by blade, to maximize shading without sacrificing visibility. The aluminum extrusions were also designed to stand off the curtain wall, to facilitate window washing. For ventilation, BCJ installed operable clerestory windows between each pair of roof panels. The windows run on an automated system and let in an even northern light that often negates the need for artificial lighting. "A big pull for the client and for us was to try to make this building responsive to its location," said Mottola. "It's been a pretty successful change for them as far as changing the culture at City Hall." Vertical aluminum louvers over City Hall's clerestory windows and other north-facing glazing prevent interior lights from disturbing the neighbors at night. The back-of-house spaces, including conference rooms and patios for staff, are gathered along an open circulation path along the west side of the building. The emphasis on common space prompted the mayor to remark, "I have met more of our City Staff in two weeks here than I did in seven years in our old city hall." Two of the Civic Center's other structures, the Council Chambers and community room, which both feature large sliding glass doors, are partially clad in stone. "We wanted to use some stone because it has a nice relationship to the concept of civic building, but we wanted to use it selectively," said Mottola. Brazilian marble was used on portions of the Council Chambers envelope, while the community room is wrapped in French limestone. The slightly darker French limestone serves to make the community room more recessive, highlighting the Council Chambers. At the same time, the location of the community room within the Civic Center as a whole reveals that it may be the complex's most important building. "The first project you see as you slow down when entering the Civic Center is the city's 'living room,'" said Chaitow. "That's intentional. Symbolically, it was important as a gesture about twenty-first century democracy."
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A digitally-designed medical products showroom plays well with its City Beautiful neighbors.The Global Center for Health Innovation, designed by LMN Architects along with the attached Cleveland Convention Center, is more than a showroom for medical products and services. Located adjacent to the Burnham Malls, the open space at the heart of Daniel Burnham’s Group Plan of 1903, the building is part of Cleveland’s civic core. “One of the things about the Global Center is that it has a unique expression and in particular the facade treatment,” said design partner Mark Reddington. “But it’s also a really integrated piece of a bigger idea and a bigger composition.” A dynamic combination of textured concrete panels and irregular slashes of glazing, the Global Center’s facade, which won honorable mention in AN’s 2014 Best of Design Awards, deftly negotiates the gap between the building’s historic context and its function as a high-tech marketplace. The Global Center’s City Beautiful surrounds influenced its facade design in several ways. “Part of the trick for us in looking at the Global Center,” said project architect Stephen Van Dyck, “was to try and make a building that was contemporary and relevant, but also a building that referred and deferred to its context materially and compositionally.” As a reflection on the solidity of the older structures ringing the Malls, the architects minimized glazing in the east face’s concrete system. In addition, they chose the color and aggregates of the concrete to mimic the tone of limestone. The texturing on the concrete panels, too, was informed by the Global Center’s context. “Like the classical buildings, there’s a lot of detail that shows up in different lighting conditions,” said Reddington. At the same time, the Global Center is very much a product of the 21st century. “There was an explicit intention in creating a facade whose qualities would not have been achievable without digital technology,” said Van Dyck. “It doesn’t look like it was handcrafted. It was primarily an exercise in allowing the technical means of creation and design to live forever on the outside of this building.” In particular, he said, the architects were interested in how their chosen material—precast concrete—allowed them to move beyond a punched-window system to a more complicated relationship between solids and voids. The result eventually became a scientific metaphor, as the designers observed the resemblance of the pattern to the twisting helices of a DNA molecule. LMN developed the facade design on a remarkably short timeline: about four months from concept to shop drawings. “The schedule requirements of the whole thing were absurd,” said Van Dyck. To make modifying the design as easy as possible, the architects developed a utility called Cricket to link Grasshopper and Revit. The ability to update the BIM model in real time convinced the design-build team to take risks despite the compressed timeframe. “Once they realized there was a strong mastery of the data, an ability to listen and incorporate the needs of [multiple] parties, that was really the breakthrough,” explained Van Dyck. “They said, ‘Hey, we can build something that’s a little unconventional.’” Besides their Cricket plug-in, a 3D printer was LMN’s most valuable tool during the design process. To explore how the panels’ texturing would animate the facade under different lighting conditions, they created plaster models from 3D-printed casts. “We had to do that because the geometry was so complex that we didn’t have any computers at the time that were capable of [modeling it],” said Van Dyck. “For us, working between the physical, digital, hand-drawn renderings were all so critical in discovering what we ultimately ended up building.” Sidley Precast Group fabricated the concrete panels with a surface pattern of horizontal joints that vary in depth and height. To minimize cost, the fabricators made almost all of the molds from a single 8-by-10-foot master formliner, with horizontal ribs spaced every 6 inches acting as dams for the smaller molds. While LMN Architects originally wanted to limit the number of panel types to eight, the final count was around 50, including larger pieces made by connecting smaller panels vertically. The approximately 400 precast panels were moved by crane to a system of vertical steel tubes running from slab to slab, then welded into place. The Viracon glazing was welded to the same tubes, a couple of inches back from the face of the concrete. The large atrium window on the building’s east face was manufactured by NUPRESS Group. For the architects, the significance of the Global Center’s facade remains tied to its broader context. Its design, while driven by modern technology, achieves a surprising degree of harmony with its surroundings. “Our building is in a way very classical, though it wasn’t an explicit intention of ours,” said Van Dyck. “To create a language that was both universal and also something that was really new—from our perspective that was a big achievement of the project.”