Posts tagged with "Cultural buildings":

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New book tells the story of the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, but can a building this wasteful really be called “green”?

Last year, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, a 1.28 million-square-foot complex built into an artificial hill in Athens, was inaugurated to great fanfare. The building will provide two institutions, the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, pristine new homes, and it is a significant addition to the Athens cultural landscape. This year saw a related achievement: the publication of Victoria Newhouse’s Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, a richly detailed account of the creation of the $800 million complex. The book could have been a dud; after all, as Newhouse herself notes, the realization of the Athens project was “nearly trouble-free.” But Newhouse lucked out, in part because Greece didn’t: The country was in dire financial and political straits for most of the time the complex was in the works, providing the “chaos” of the title. Only the commitment of the deep-pocketed Stavros Niarchos Foundation kept the project on track. But the plan was always that the complex, once completed, would be turned over to the Greek government, which would operate it with taxpayer funds—a result that now seems unrealistic. (Worse, the agreement between the foundation and the government stipulates that if the government fails to meet its obligation to operate the Center, it will refund the foundation’s entire investment in the project—money the government doesn’t appear to have.) So the book became as much a tale of politics and economics as of architecture. And right now, that tale is a cliffhanger: neither the library nor the opera house has fully moved into the building. True, there is some architectural intrigue, usually involving firms other than the always-dependable Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW): Newhouse details the master-planning work of the New York firm Cooper Robertson that preceded the selection of RPBW to design the complex. She then reports that almost nothing of the master plan can be seen in the RPBW design. And she delves into the hiring, in 2013, of the Dutch firm Mecanoo, to rethink RPBW’s library design. Newhouse writes:
The idea that work by Renzo Piano—winner of a Pritzker Prize, among numerous other awards—could be corrected by anyone, let alone a far less known firm, would be surprising under any circumstances. What made it especially so is the stark disparity of styles between the two offices.
But Piano prevailed: “Having initially greeted [Mecanoo founder Francine] Houben with his usual charm, the Italian architect barely glanced at the Mecanoo proposal in late 2013 before rejecting it out of hand.” In the course of writing the book, Newhouse developed expertise on subjects as diverse as the history of philanthropy in the Ottoman world and the acoustical preferences of Southern Europeans. The book is a kind of encyclopedia. But there is one significant lacuna:  Newhouse calls the building “a triumph of environmental sensitivity.” In fact, the building, despite incorporating enough “green” features to achieve LEED platinum status, is inherently wasteful.  First, it’s not clear it was needed in the first place. The Greek National Opera, though lacking a purpose-built home, has performed “with great success” at the Megaron Concert Hall in the center of Athens, Newhouse reports. As for the library, its existing building, also in the center of the city, could handle far more visitors than it received. Consequently, Newhouse writes, “no one was able to realistically define the new library’s purpose.” Neither organization had a director at the time the planning for the cultural center began. And with the country in economic crisis, the entire enterprise, Newhouse observes, “defied logic.” But the Niarchos Foundation was determined to build something important, and its resolve only strengthened when the Greek economy collapsed. True, Piano’s best buildings, including New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, exhibit an inherent modesty (as does Piano himself). But the Niarchos Foundation encouraged Piano to think big. After visiting the Athens site, he decided to give the library and opera separate buildings, facing a modern agora (through a pair of enormous glass facades) and set them into a manmade hill, more than 100 feet high at its peak. “It was an almost childish idea:  I simply lifted the ground’s surface to make way for the architecture,” Piano told the author. Creating the hill would involve building vast retaining walls, moving some 654,000 cubic feet of earth, and protecting all of it against seismic activity. That was accomplished by filling steel tubes with rocks, then hammering the tubes into the earth at 10-foot intervals, creating some 3,500 “gravel piles” in the process. Those processes required vast amounts of energy. Then came the planting of the center’s 40-acre garden, much of it on raised ground, and the extensive irrigation required to keep it alive in arid Athens—a process that involves both pumping water uphill and passing it through a reverse osmosis desalinization plant. The hill, that “childish idea,” is a grown-up energy consumer. Overall, operating the cultural center will require 14 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, Newhouse reports. Producing that much power through the burning of coal—the predominant source of electricity in Greece—will create some 30 million pounds of CO2 or its equivalents, according to the best available figures. That’s about as much 1,500 average Greeks produce each year. True, setting the building in a hill could reduce the cooling load by as much as 7%, Newhouse reports. But counting that as an environmental victory is like counting gambling winnings while ignoring losses. And, true, the vast building has a substantial photovoltaic system. In fact, after the artificial hill, its most prominent feature is the canopy atop the opera house, a kind of flying carpet supporting 87,000 square feet (about two acres) of photovoltaic panels. That certainly sounds green. But the panels, even with the latest technology, will produce just 2 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, or about 15% of the building’s needs. (And that’s if all goes well.) And even that power isn’t “free,” environmentally speaking. Thirty steel columns, braced by diagonal cable ties, support the p.v. panel-covered canopy, which is estimated to weigh 4,700 tons. The carbon footprint of structural steel is enormous. And solar panels themselves require energy to fabricate, transport, and install. There is no free lunch, energy-wise. Making matters worse, the Center is two miles from the nearest subway stop. Hard to reach by public transit, it contains 1,000 parking spaces, evidence of its reliance on private cars. LEED doesn't take any of that into account. It is essentially a checklist system, conferring points for “moves” like providing bicycle racks and using recycled building materials.  Whether the building should have been built in the first place; whether it could have been built closer to public transportation; or could have been significantly smaller than it is—the big-ticket items, environmentally—are the very issues LEED ignores. Of course, I understand the need for symbols, which can help uplift societies (especially societies as troubled as 21st-century Greece). And I believe that the Niarchos Foundation had the best intentions when it vowed to make the building green.  But the building it built is anything but green, and LEED is its enabler. With its “platinum” imprimatur, LEED sends a message that even unnecessary buildings, on sites ill-served by public transportation, and requiring vast amounts of energy to build and maintain, are good for the environment. Which, at this time of climate crisis, triggered by energy consumption, is a dangerous message to send. Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens is available from Monacelli Press.
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Faena Forum by OMA opens in Miami Beach

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Editor's Note: Our Facades+ Miami conference will take place January 26th and 27th at the Faena Forum. OMA partner and designer of the building Shohei Shigematsu will be the keynote speaker. Space is still available, register here Rotterdam-based OMA has designed three buildings nestled within a narrow plot of land between Miami Beach's famous Collins Avenue and Indian Creek Drive in Mid-Beach. The project is a significant contribution to the Faena District, a $1.2 billion project covering six blocks and integrating dynamic cultural, residential, hotel, retail, culinary, and public environments. OMA's structures are all governed by independent programs: a Forum with flexible theater uses, a Bazaar that retrofits a historic hotel with curated retail and event programming, and a state-of-the-art car park. The project responds urbanistically to two frontages: the luxurious private residential character of Indian Creek to the west, and the active public cityscape of Collins Avenue and public beaches to the east. Shohei Shigematsu, partner at OMA and the director of their New York office, led design efforts on the project. He commented: “Our creative partnership with Faena began with identity research and has evolved into urban design, programming, building-making, and scenography. These diverse investigations had a profound impact on the Forum's ability to accommodate the programmatic demands of functioning as a new typology for interaction."
  • Facade Manufacturer Giovanni Monti & Partners (GMP)
  • Architects OMA, Revuelta Architecture International, PA (Architect of Record)
  • Facade Installer Giovanni Monti & Partners (GMP)
  • Facade Consultants IBA Consultants, Inc. (Exterior Building Envelope); Reginald Hough Associates (Architectural Concrete Consultant); DeSimone Consulting Engineers (Structural Engineer)
  • Location Miami, FL
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System reinforced concrete structural facade (Faena Forum); precast concrete (Faena Park)
  • Products Limestone plaster ultra-high-performance cladding with finish by Thermochromex; Steel facade system and Special System for Fixed Windows by Schuco
A central focus of the new district is Faena Forum, which opened to the public this week. The building is composed of two volumes—a cylinder and a cube— that are similar in size and can be combined or subdivided to support any type of production, from projects and commissions to performances, exhibitions, and events. The main entrance is denoted by a circular stair that descends from an impressive 46-foot cantilever. This leads up into the lobby of the building, which the architects elevated in response to concerns over rising sea levels. The design move freed up ground floor space for loading functions and helped to provide a canopy along Collins Avenue. The architects say this extended the public domain into and under the building. Shigematsu said the formal strategy of the Forum's radiused cantilevered facade was inspired by the firm's research into urban planning principles. “The Forum’s circular plan enables the public domain to expand, activating pedestrian movement within the district. A 45-foot cantilever allows the landscaped plaza to slip under the Forum along Collins, providing a dramatic sense of arrival.” The Forum's cantilever and the flexible interior programming are achieved through the structural system of the building, which is essentially a reinforced concrete structural skin. Shigematsu said the unique geometry of the facade is the resultant of arches and catenary curves along stress lines generated by the main entryway cantilever: "There is a logical force movement across the facade." This curvilinear geometry was overlaid with an orthogonal lateral load bracing grid in response to hurricane-strength design loads. The resulting performative patterning of the facade yielded 360 uniquely shaped voids that were infilled with custom glazed units. This system extends onto the cube volume where diagonal bracing picked up on structural forces generated from the cylinder's volume. "There are many ways to structurally achieve a cantilever through grids but we thought these arches looked more organic like sea shells and palm trees, so we thought this was quite fitting to Miami Beach's lush nature,” said Shigematsu. Set at the opposite end of the development site, Faena Park is OMA's other new construction addition to the district. The building is a state-of-the-art parking structure with a capacity for 81 cars, as well as retail spaces at the street and top level. The 28,000 square foot structure features a mechanical system with parking lifts that stacks cars two per space for maximum efficiency. An exposed glass shaftway on 35th street reveals the vehicular and passenger movement within the building’s structure. Shigematsu said the unique automated system of car parking interested the design team: "We are quite interested in the performance of a building, so we love this kind of mechanical building." The precast concrete facade features angled perforations allowing for ventilation and controlled views, subtlety reflecting the color of cars parked within. The panels were specified in three patterning configurations—opaque, inset, and outset—and are distributed onto the facade in correlation to programmatic activity. Due to Miami's high water table, a specialized "bathtub construction" allows for continuous parking underground to support valet parking, increasing parking capacity by over 150 cars. Bookended between Faena Forum and Faena Park is a historic Atlantic Beach Hotel, which was built in 1939 and designed by prominent Miami Beach architect Roy France, whose work includes the Saxony and Versailles. Scheduled to open in Spring 2017, OMA’s design preserves the building’s original facade details, while inserting a new intimate central courtyard, unified by privacy screen and a penthouse terrace with views to the Atlantic Ocean. The privacy screen doubles as a brise-soleil and is assembled from simple aluminum channel extrusions. The architects say this assembly helps to define the new courtyard as a negative volume within the existing building. Shigematsu said OMA's contribution to the Faena District was inspired by the urbanism of the Miami Beach site: "As a firm, we always like to have a sense of urbanism reflected in the building. So actually, making three buildings next to each other with three different programs was very easy, in a way, because you can actually produce a dialogue you have full control over. The historical structure that we preserved added authenticity to the project. It looks like an organic growth of the neighborhood." Also in the Faena District, across the street, is a new tower by Foster and Partners. OMA's project was designed roughly concurrently with the tower, and Shigematsu said that responding directly to Foster's building was not a priority, although there was an interest in unifying the buildings of the neighborhood though landscape design, paving and public art. "I think the dialog between our Forum, Foster's tower, and the hotel is actually quite interesting. In the end, Foster's balconies have a round profile, and our building [the Forum] is round, and the historic hotel has a curvature on the main facade."
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Bjarke Ingels wraps the Warehouse421 cultural center with Cor-ten steel in Abu Dhabi

The Bjarke Ingels Group has finished another one—this time in the Middle East. The Copenhagen- and New York–based architecture firm’s recently completed project in Abu Dhabi, a new cultural exhibition space called Warehouse421, just opened, prompting a celebratory three-day festival featuring live musical performances, a myriad of exhibits, and interactive workshops led by art and design professionals. The project, which was commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, an organization providing support for education, arts, and cultural initiatives, is part of the revitalization of the Abu Dhabi warehouse district in the port area of Mina Zayed. The new art hub, formerly a pair of tin shed warehouses, was upgraded to encompass dynamic art gallery spaces separated by a series of five verdant courtyards, representing an important vernacular element in Middle Eastern architecture and culture. Concrete floors and white-painted steel establish a neutral interior ambiance for the viewing of artworks. A perforated mesh skin of Cor-ten steel employs Arabian geometric patterns while also echoing the rusty industrial sheds that characterize the surrounding district. The Cor-ten steel protects an insulating layer of lightweight and efficient sandwich panels. Also featured is outdoor exhibition space, where local vegetation and urban furniture create an “artificial desert landscape.” Responding to public demand for a new primary exhibition venue in the capital city, Warehouse421 is set to become a new cultural destination. It will showcase a roster of gallery shows and public programs, setting the stage for creativity throughout Abu Dhabi.
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Bernard Tschumi’s First Project in Italy Blocked, Future Remains Uncertain

Bernard Tschumi’s first project in Italy appears to be on hold—if it is not dead altogether. The regional Superintendence for Architecture and Landscape Heritage has blocked plans for the architect's cultural center, called “ANIMA”, which was scheduled to open in Grottammare in 2017. The announcement about the plan’s fate was made the same day a retrospective on Tschumi’s work opened at the Pompidou Center in Paris—a retrospective that includes ANIMA, which stands for arts, nature, music, action. Tschumi’s perfectly square structure is encased in a white concrete facade that has varied, recessed openings to filter in light and serve as entrances. According to the firm, the exterior has a presence that is both simple and striking. Inside the roughly 100,000-square-foot space there are four interior courtyards, which accommodate various cultural programming as hinted by the structure's name. “All the different functional spaces will orbit around a central very large core: the heart of the structure, which will consist of a single ambience able to accommodate 1,500 seats that can be divided and used as a flexible and adaptable space,” explained Tschumi Architects in a statement. For now, however, the building’s future remains uncertain.
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Unveiled> An Acoustic Renewal in Brooklyn by Bureau V

Brooklyn-based architecture practice Bureau V unleashed a spectacular design for the Original Music Workshop, a new non-profit arts organization which will open in 2013 with a wide range of musical programming, from classical to jazz to experimental sound. Located in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the performance center was designed in collaboration with engineering gurus Arup and features state of the art acoustical technologies. Like any good construction in Brooklyn these days, the building is a high-tech, state-of-the-art renovation of a disused industrial building on Wythe and North 6th streets, just one block from the East River. In this case, it's an acoustic performance center with a series of variable acoustic treatments that allow the space to be tuned to specific instrumentation using acoustically isolated box-in-box construction, which minimizes background noise to studio levels inside the graffitied, hollowed-out remains of a sawdust factory. The result is a sublime collision of new and old: technology and ruin, progress and history, refinement and grit. Bureau V principal Peter Zuspan explained that OMW came to them with a "two-fold request: the space needed to be both acoustically superior and a comfortable and visually compelling space, a departure from the standard black box theater.” The acoustically-driven, geometrically complex chamber hall  will accomodate 170 chairs, or approximately 350 people standing. “The space is small enough to truly listen, while large enough to foster a sense of community,” said Bureau V principal Alexander Pincus. Because of its acoustical performance features, the space can double as a recording studio for up to 70 performers. For construction photos, click here.      
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Morphosis’ Museum of Nature & Science Facade: Gate Precast

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A new cultural focal point takes shape in Dallas

When the Dallas Museum of Nature & Science was created from the 2006 merger of three city museums—the Museum of Natural History, The Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum—the new institution set its sites on expanding programming with a new facility in the city’s Victory Park neighborhood. Now, the 180,000-square-foot Morphosis-designed Perot Museum of Nature & Science is slated for completion in 2013. Located at the northwest corner of Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Field Street, it marks the future crossroads of the city’s Trinity River Corridor Project and the city’s cultural districts. Floating atop an irregularly shaped plinth that will be the base for a one-acre rooftop ecosystem, the museum’s striated concrete facade offers a first glimpse at the dynamic transformation of the site.
  • Fabricator Gate Precast
  • Architect Morphosis
  • Location Dallas, Texas
  • Status Estimated 2013 completion
  • Materials Precast concrete
  • Process Revit, BIM, concrete casting
Early renderings show a smooth monolithic cube as the museum’s main volume, but the Morphosis team began working with the Hillsboro, Texas, branch of Gate Precast early in the project to develop a horizontally striped precast concrete panel design for the facade. “They wanted something different from everything else in Dallas,” said Gate sales and marketing manager Scott Robinson. “The architects wanted it to be true, raw, and modern.” To this end, Morphosis selected a plain gray concrete mix, without pigment or white cement, for the facade, knowing there would be natural mottling to each panel. “They didn’t want the building to look painted,” said Robinson. In total, the company will fabricate 655 precast pieces for the project. Gate created a series of mock-ups using random combinations of convex and concave shapes that would flow seamlessly from one panel to the next. After refining the design in Revit, Gate’s BIM operators modeled more than 100,000 square feet of precast cladding on the museum’s exterior for Morphosis’ 3-D models. Wood-framed concrete molds constructed in a range of set dimensions (the average size is 8 by 30 feet) helped keep facade costs lower. Within these, convex and concave rubber pieces based on the team’s digital models can be placed to achieve the desired striation. In the harsh Texas sun, the random shapes cast bold shadows across the building’s elevations, gradually giving way to smooth concrete surfaces on the higher levels. Because the pattern continues at the building’s corners, end panels required a two-step process: The short end was poured and set first, then rotated to allow the long section to be poured before the two pieces were attached with a cold joint. The curved precast panels for the museum’s base created another challenge—building formwork in multiple axes. Gate’s engineering department created a series of geometric points and calculations for its carpentry wing, and carpenters built the formwork by hand without any CNC equipment. “The hard part is that they get a picture of what the panel looks like, and they have to build the reverse of that,” said Robinson. The curved precast panels will require nearly 80 unique molds in all, comprising about 15 percent of the project’s precast concrete. For its final contribution to the project, Gate will cast several pieces that Morphosis is referring to as “sticks”—long precast beams that will decorate the site as sculpture or functional elements once the new museum’s rooftop ecosystem, with landscape architecture by Dallas-based Talley Associates, is in place.