Renovation transforms decommissioned McKim Mead & White building into campus event space.When Amherst College decided to convert a former steam plant into a student event space, the choice likely struck some observers as odd. Designed in 1925 by McKim, Mead & White, the coal-burning plant was decommissioned in the 1960s; since the 1980s, it had been used as a makeshift garage for ground equipment. The facade of the neglected building needed to be opened up to reveal its potential while respecting its good bones. "It wasn't in great shape, but it wasn't in terrible shape," said Bruner/Cott's Dana Kelly. "Impressively enough, the school recognized that it had qualities that could be harnessed for a new student space." The brick building's industrial aesthetic was a particular draw, said Kelly, whose firm has spearheaded renovations at the nearby MASS MoCA (itself a former industrial complex) since the museum opened in 1999. For Amherst College, Bruner/Cott took a similar approach, balancing preservation and alteration to support the new program without disrupting the historic building's essential character. By the time Bruner/Cott began work on the Powerhouse, the original brick envelope had already seen a lot of change. Earlier renovators had filled windows with glass block, rebuilt a blind arch in mismatching brick, and cut a large garage door into the south facade. "Since the building had been altered so much, we chose to continue the dialogue by restoring or reconstructing some exterior elements, and sensitively altering others to match the new use and open the building up to campus," said Bruner/Cott's Jason Forney and Aoife Morris. On the side of the building facing the campus road, the architects inserted a new steel and glass entrance into a blind brick arch. On the south facade, to connect the interior to the new outdoor terrace, they inserted historic replica windows and french doors in place of the glass block, and swapped out the roll-up garage door for a bi-fold glass door. On the north side, which faces the parking lot, Bruner/Cott retained the existing glass block. "The observer still reads the McKim, Mead & White design, but with the changes the building has evolved to be an extroverted part of campus instead of being an introverted coal-burning steam plant," said Forney and Morris. Environmental performance was a priority for the architects, who will monitor the building's energy consumption during occupancy. They talked Amherst College into opting for operable windows over mechanical cooling. For heat, they chose a hydronic radiant floor and an overhead infrared heater that runs on gas. "These systems work to heat the bodies of occupants, instead of heating the large volume of air in the space," explained Forney and Morris. An insulated chamber designed by Bruner/Cott captures waste heat from the new steam plant below the building and releases it into the event space during the winter. The architects chose not to insulate the interior walls "since their character was an important design element for the event space," said Forney and Morris. To compensate, they installed a new slate roof, heavily insulated with spray-on cellulose. The new roof, noted Forney and Morris, mixes two colors of stone "to achieve the mottled effect of the existing roof, which was beautiful but had outlived its lifespan." To avoid interrupting the Powerhouse's open plan, Bruner/Cott situated the restrooms in an understated addition constructed from board-formed concrete. "We find that additions like this are often necessary to support existing buildings without undermining their spatial qualities," observed Forney and Morris. To foreground the steam plant itself, "we chose to make the addition appear like a garden wall—a 'non-building,'" they said. "It is simply two offset concrete walls that conceal the door to the terrace." The contractor built the formwork from rough-hewn lumber to achieve a patinated look, and tinted the concrete to match the existing water table banding. The addition's gutters are designed to pour water down the face of the wall and hasten the appearance of age. Like Bruner/Cott's sensitive renovation, the steam plant's new moniker—the Powerhouse—effectively gestures at both the history of the building and its new incarnation as a campus activities hub. "Amherst College chose the name both to remind students of the building's industrial past, and to recognize its place in 21st-century student life," said Forney and Morris. Once responsible for producing heat, today the structure generates something less material, but equally important: student engagement.
Posts tagged with "Concrete":
Terra cotta rain screen transforms brutalist eyesore into energy-efficient community space.Considered an aesthetic and functional failure almost since its construction in 1974, the old public library in Lawrence, Kansas, was overdue for a renovation four decades later. Gould Evans' challenge was to transform the low-slung brutalist behemoth, a poor environmental performer lacking both adequate daylighting and a sense of connection to the community, into an asset. "The desire was to try to come up with a building that basically reinvented the library for the community," said vice president Sean Zaudke. Rather than tacking an addition on to one end of the existing structure, the architects elected to wrap a 20,000-square-foot reading room and open stacks area around the old facade. In so doing, they altered the exterior for the better, swapping bare concrete for an earth-hued terra cotta rain screen punctuated by plentiful glazing. They also significantly enhanced the library's environmental performance, with early estimates suggesting that the new Lawrence Public Library will see a 50 percent reduction in energy usage despite a 50 percent increase in square footage. The decision to entirely enclose the old building within the addition was a critical component of the architects' sustainability strategy. "It allowed us to come up with a continuous facade utilizing a continuous insulation system," explained Zaudke. "It helped a lot with energy performance." Gould Evans chose a terra cotta rain screen from NBK to better tie the library to its surroundings. The building is located in an interstitial zone, immediately adjacent to buildings constructed in the 1950s but not far from Lawrence's thriving historic downtown. "We selected terra cotta because it could play by both sets of rules," said Zaudke. "It has an historic connotation, but it's also a much more modern-looking material." Daylighting was another of the architects' key concerns. "Because there were so few windows in the old library, wherever you went there was a sort of phototropic behavior," said Zaudke. "People just gathered around the windows. The rest was not as utilized." Gould Evans significantly altered the user experience by creating an open reading room within the wraparound addition, all of which is exposed to daylight. Other library functions are contained within the core, which in turn is lit both by a continuous clerestory and a series of Solatubes. The clerestory also prevents glare within the reading room by illuminating the inside of the facade. Gould Evans used prescriptive data to determine the overall balance of terra cotta to glass on the new facade—about 60/40—as well as on each exterior wall. To reduce thermal gain on the east and west faces, the architects placed terra cotta baguettes over each horizontal slit window. Together, the baguettes and the depth of the wall act as sunshades. As for Lawrence Public Library's old concrete facade, "we didn't want to just pretend it wasn't there," said Zaudke. Instead, Gould Evans partially overlaid it with a tongue-in-groove system of unstained wood. "The concrete had a harsh feel to it," explained Zaudke. "By wrapping it with wood and revealing it in places, there's this nice dialog that occurs. Everywhere it opens up is where some core function reveals itself—it's an interesting dynamic." At the library entrance, the architects brought the wood outside, encased in glass to protect it from the elements, said Zaudke. "That vocabulary of cracking open the library, of making it accessible, is present at the entry."
Developers use cutting-edge technology to restore Ralph Walker crown.When JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group purchased the 1927 Ralph Walker high-rise in Manhattan’s Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in order to transform it into the Stella Tower condominiums, they realized that something was not quite right about the roofline. "The building had a very odd, plain parapet of mismatched brick," recalled JDS founder Michael Stern. "We were curious about why it had this funny detail that didn't belong to the building." The developers tracked down old photographs of the property and were pleasantly surprised by what they saw: an intricate Art Deco thin dome crown. "We were very intrigued by putting the glory back on top of the building," said Stern. They proceeded to do just that, deploying a combination of archival research and modern-day technology to recreate a remarkable early-twentieth-century ornament. The developers, who had previously worked together on 111 West 57th Street and Walker Tower, another Ralph Walker renovation, began with what Stern calls "archeology" or "surgical demolition" of the crown area. The excavation revealed that the entire base of the crown remained behind the bricks added by Verizon, the building's previous owner. They also tracked down original drawings of the building, which showed the shape of the crown and some of its dimensions. "We didn't have shop drawings—we didn't have a road map," said Stern. "My team had to basically reverse engineer the crown using the drawings as a guide." They also leaned on 3D scans of the base to fill in the missing dimensions, and constructed a 3D model of the crown in SolidWorks. The SolidWorks model helped the developers answer important questions, like how many new pieces should be cast, how they would be installed, and what support would be required. JDS Construction, who led the reconstruction effort working with CetraRuddy architects, called on Corinthian Cast Stone to fabricate the new pieces. Corinthian cast a total of 48 pieces for the upper half of the crown in colored concrete. To support the new work, JDS designed a complex steel structure for the inside of the crown. They assembled the entire structure offsite before disassembling it and lifting it to the top of Stella Tower using a custom pulley and lever system. Eight craftsmen installed the precast pieces one at a time over the course of approximately five weeks. Each precast piece was clipped to the steel structure, then mortared to its mates. The design and fabrication process, which began with the decision three years ago to reproduce the crown, culminated this September. "The crown is so spectacular," said Stern. "It's better than the invention of the wheel." Besides his pride in the crown in and of itself, Stern sees the Stella Tower project as a chance to restore Ralph Walker's place in the architectural canon. In addition to recreating the crown, JDS and Property Markets Group recast every piece of cast stone and replaced every window and every mismatched brick on the building's exterior. "We've fixed some of the wrongs history has done to the building," he noted. "This was a great telecom building by one of the fathers of New York architecture, but over the years his buildings have been lost in the landscape. With Walker Tower and Stella Tower, we're trying to bring attention back to his legacy."
Photoengraved concrete connects past and present in Montreal student housing.Though the site on which KANVA's Edison Residence was recently constructed stood vacant for at least 50 years, its emptiness belied a more complicated history. Located on University Street just north of McGill University's Milton gates, the student apartment building lies within one of Montreal's oldest neighborhoods. Photographs dating to the mid-19th century show a stone house on the lot, but by 1960 the building "had disappeared; it was erased," said founding partner Rami Bebawi. Excavation revealed that the original house had burned to the ground. Prompted by the site's history, as well as an interest in exploring cutting-edge concrete technology, the architects delivered a unique solution to the challenge of combining old and new: a photoengraved concrete facade featuring stills from Thomas Edison's 1901 film of Montreal firefighters. Knowing that Edison Residence would be subject to heavy use by its student occupants, KANVA chose concrete—featured on the interior as well as the building envelope—for its durability and sustainability. But the architects were not interested in sticking to tried-and-true building methods. "Being right in front of a university, we took it upon ourselves to say, 'We're going to push concrete technology,'" explained Bebawi. "We wanted the building itself to be a laboratory to experiment with concrete, and to make this innovation public and accessible to all." Because they also hoped to use the facade to tell a story, they turned to photoengraving, a technique developed by the German firm Reckli. Reckli translates black and white images into grooves of different depths and widths that offer a total of 256 shades of grey. "It brings the building to life, just like cinematography brings photos to life," said Bebawi, noting that the images may appear and disappear according to one's viewpoint. "It's not a stain. We're looking at something that is permanent, yet dynamic." Choosing the content of the photoengraved panels proved more difficult. "Here's a tool that's powerful, but very scary," said Bebawi. "It's like a billboard in Times Square, but it doesn't change every 30 seconds. You have this kind of social responsibility [to make an appropriate choice]." Thinking about photoengraving's capacity to animate a building led KANVA to early moving pictures, or "tableaux mouvants," and in turn to Edison's role in developing film technology. When they discovered his Montreal Fire Department on Runners, filmed just blocks away from the Edison Residence site, they knew they had it. "All of sudden we closed the loop," recalled Bebawi. "Fires transformed the city." The architects extracted twenty images from the film and sent them to Germany, where Reckli manufactured rubber liners for use during the pouring of the precast panels. Local prefabricated concrete company Saramac fabricated and installed the panels back in Montreal. For continuity, all of the street facade's glazing (manufactured and installed by Groupe Lessard) features additional screen-printed stills from Edison's film. Depending on the position of the sun, the film sequence becomes more or less visible. Variations in the facade depth form a base and cornice, and add to the effect. "When the sun's not at the right angle, the grooves make it look like it's simply an inserted masonry building," said Bebawi. "At other times, it comes to life." Other aspects of the building, including the prominent porte-cochère, nod to local architectural traditions. Yellow metal accents offer additional animation "by sort of an urban signal," said Bebawi. "This yellow is screaming out. It pulls you into the porte-cochère entrance and is expressed on lateral and rear facades." The remainder of the building is unornamented concrete, in keeping with the quarter's environmental code. "It had to be a masonry building according to the heritage standards," said Bebawi. "Obviously, we played with that: 'I can fit your rules, but speak in terms of 2014.' It was a great collaboration with municipal and provincial authorities." Edison Residence embodies a third way to reconcile new construction with history. "When you think about our relationship to the past in terms of architecture, you can demolish it, imitate it, or contrast it," said Bebawi. "This building takes a different position. Depending on the way you place yourself, sometimes the past appears, and sometimes it doesn't."
Earth-toned GFRC panels and contrasting metal wrap Petzl's new North American hub.When Petzl executives decided to move the climbing and caving equipment company's North American headquarters from Clearfield to West Valley City, Utah, they sought an opportunity not just to expand, but to design a facility that would reflect the brand's mission. "The two words we kept hearing from them were verticality and light," recalled ajc architects founding principal Jill A. Jones. "The types of products they design really have to deal with the vertical world." Working with a southwestern palette inspired by Petzl corporation founder and president Paul Petzl's recent visits to Mesa Verde National Park and Machu Picchu, the architects designed a combination administrative, training, and distribution center whose mesa-like bottom stories and punctuating tower appear as if carved out of desert rock. Given Paul Petzl's interest in the continent's arid landscapes, natural stone cladding would have seemed an obvious choice. But "to use stone would have been terribly expensive," said Jones—especially given the building's size, 80,000 gross square feet. "Getting a lot of stone in those larger panels would have been cost-prohibitive." Instead, the architects looked to GFRC, and worked with Tuscan Stoneworx's Dave Nicholson to develop a hybrid system of stone-backed GFRC panels. Rather than being hung on the building, the panels are adhered directly to it, thus avoiding any breaks in the thermal barrier. To perfect the look of the GFRC, the architects did no less than a dozen color studies before selecting three red-orange tones for application. The panels were sandblasted on site to render the color and texture more naturalistic. Nicholson helped ajc customize every aspect of the panel system, from color and texture to corner installation. "I don't know if he'll ever do that again," remarked Jones. The designers clad the tower and a bump-out over the front door in dark grey metal from Drexel Metals. "The tower itself was a sensitive area, because Petzl did something similar in their home headquarters in Crolles, France," said Jones. "It kind of felt dark and cold; we wanted to bring a lot of daylight into the space." The architects performed a series of daylighting studies, "to make sure we had daylighting opportunities in every occupied space." This led to the installation of high-performance glass on both sides of the office block to avoid glare. For the warehouse area, ajc chose tilt-up concrete. But as with the GFRC, achieving a natural look took some ingenuity. "We wanted not to paint the concrete, to get a more organic look," said Jones. "But staining the concrete was a challenge, because the form liners leave a natural coating on the panels." Contractor Sahara experimented with various solutions once the panels were in place to find a stain that the concrete would accept. Petzl's new North American headquarters is a fitting base camp for a company committed to pushing the limits of human exploration. Both inside and out—from its window-lit multi-story indoor climbing and training wall to its human-made, red-rock-inspired envelope—the building embodies a balance between reverence for the natural world, and celebration of the technology that makes that world a little more knowable.
University of Arkansas addition celebrates the future with a contemporary rewrite of Neoclassicism.As head of the architecture department and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell was uniquely qualified to oversee the renovation and expansion of the school's home, Vol Walker Hall. To unite the school's landscape architecture, architecture, and interior design departments under one roof for the first time, Blackwell's eponymous firm designed a contemporary west wing to mirror the east bar on the existing Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the 1930s as the university library. But the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—which tied for Building of the Year in AN's 2014 Best of Design Awards—is more than a container for 37,000 square feet of new studio, seminar, and office space. It is also a teaching tool, a lesson in the evolution of architectural technology writ in concrete, limestone, glass, steel, and zinc. "Our strategy was to create a counterweight to the existing building," explained Blackwell. Rather than a layered steel-frame construction, Marlon Blackwell Architect opted for a post-tensioned concrete structure to convey a sense of mass and volume. "We also wanted to demonstrate what you can do with new technology like post-tensioned concrete, such as introducing a cantilever and introducing a profile that has minimal columns in the spaces," he said. "All of that is a didactic tool for our students to contrast and compare with the load-bearing technology of the existing structure." The exterior of the Steven L. Anderson Design Center also reflects on changes to architectural practice during the last 80 years. "We really wanted to develop a strong profile of the building, in contrast to Vol Walker Hall," said Blackwell. He describes the effect as a figure-ground reversal: where in the older structure the mass of the building is the ground and the windows and ornament act as figure, in the new wing the mass is the figure and the fenestration the ground. To create what Blackwell terms a "condition of resonance" between the Design Center and Vol Walker Hall, the architects engaged Clarkson Consulting to develop an architectural concrete to match the color of a local Arkansas limestone no longer available. They echoed the Indiana limestone on the older wing with panels sourced from a quarry only 50 miles from the original. But instead of grouting the limestone cladding on the new wing, Blackwell chose a limestone rain screen system from Stone Panels. "That allows us to go much thinner but much larger," he said. "Again, we're using the same materials but showing how the advancement of technology allows for a different expression of architecture." The defining feature of the Design Center is the more than 200-foot-long glass and steel curtain wall on the western facade. Knowing that the western exposure would provide the only source of natural light for the new wing, the architects worked to balance the need for light against the threat of solar gain. To complement the existing building, they chose a fascia steel curtain wall custom-fabricated by local company L&L Metal Fabrication. With curtain wall consultants Heitmann & Associates, Blackwell developed a brise soleil comprising 3/4-inch by 18-inch frit glass fins, angled to filter sunlight into the Design Center's 43-foot-deep studios. "What we like about it, too, is that it's one big window," said Blackwell. "It allows it to feel as if we've cut a section right through the building. At night the entire facade becomes a beacon, allowing for a nice interface between the school of architecture and the rest of the community." Other details, including the monolithic concrete pours designed to lighten the Design Center's connection to the ground, and zinc cladding used on the top floor to sharpen the profile of the main body, continue the dialogue between the new structure and its Neoclassical neighbor. "There are a lot of little things that give a tautness to the expression of the new addition, and give it its own identity," said Blackwell. "But at the same time, one of the things we were faithful to was trying to analyze and uncover units of measure and proportion on the old building, and apply that to ours." Perhaps more importantly, the building works as a design school—and Blackwell would know. "There's certainly contrast on the outside," he said. "But there's an almost resonant seamlessness on the inside."
John Holden, a member of the committee, said Cuneo's fate has gotten less than a "robust hearing." A developer who wanted to offer a plan to renovate and repurpose the building wasn't encouraged, according to Holden. "Cuneo deserves preservation, period," Holden said. "It's an important example of mid-20th-century modern architecture."The debate over Cuneo has drawn comparisons to another mid-century experimental hospital design: Old Prentice Women's Hospital. That Bertrand Goldberg building is currently under demolition by Northwestern University, who plans to build a research high-rise on the site. As for what awaits Chicago architect Edo J. Belli’s Cuneo, 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman apparently endorses a developer’s plan to build a high rise on the site, where Montrose and Clarendon Avenues meet. Built in 1957, the first of the Cuneo buildings was one of the Illinois Institute of Technology graduate’s experiments with sculptural forms—a stroke against the grain of the Miesian rigidity that dominated IIT and much of Chicago architecture at the time. The building was closed in 1988, and used as a children's shelter for a few years after that. St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lincoln Park displays similar elements. (Read an extended interview with Edo Belli by the Art Institute of Chicago here.) Another building across Clarendon was built later, connected to the 1957 structure by a skywalk. Friends of Cuneo, a preservation group, floated a petition to save the hospital last fall, when demolition plans were first made public.