A bespoke aluminum building skin transforms an abandoned war bunker into a high-performing boutique hotel.Restoration hotelier Unlisted Collection recently acquired a historically listed, vacant municipal building in London’s East End that served as a set favorite for film luminaries like David Lynch. The 1910 Edwardian fore building and its utilitarian 1937 addition had served as the town hall of Bethnal Green before World War II. In order to convert the complex into a boutique hotel, Unlisted hired London-based architecture practice Rare and tasked the firm with designing an addition to the existing buildings to add space for more guest rooms and amenities, while unifying the three disparate elements into a single entity. Rare directors and founders Nathalie Rozencwajg and Michel da Costa Gonçalves answered this last charge with an ornamental screen facade that visually ties together the historic and modern buildings while also improving user comfort and environmental performance. “The yellow brick facade of the 1937 building wasn’t finished due to the outbreak of the Second World War, when it was repurposed as a bunker,” Rozencwajg recently told AN. Since the building had suffered no major damage during the war, the designers had to move forward while abiding by the English heritage guidelines for preserving historical structures, including the decorative Eduardian facade along the street front. To expand square footage and enable the building’s function as a hotel, the team designed a fourth-level add-on for additional guest rooms. The addition is enclosed in a double-glazed curtain wall that is screened by a parametrically designed ornamental skin. Working in a custom-scripted plugin for Rhino, the team designed a pattern for the screen wall derived from an old ventilation grill that they found in the 1937 extension. In developing the pattern, the designers divided the project into three major zones. The uppermost level functions as a brise soleil with a tightly defined pattern that blocks most of the southern sunlight that impacts this part of the building. Toward the center, the pattern is varied, more open in some places and more closed in others to accommodate interior programming—guest rooms feature smaller apertures for greater privacy while the public spaces are clad in a more open screen. At the bottom level, apertures are kept small to provide privacy from street-level passersby. Approximately 980 feet of the building’s surface is wrapped in this screen, fabricated from laser-cut, 4-mm-thick aluminum sheets. Eight 7-by-4-foot panels in varying pattern densities are bolted into a frame that hangs from the curtain wall. At the roof level, the panels were designed to conceal the building’s elevator towers, plenum, and pitched roof profiles. Rozencwajg estimated that unique panel shapes make up 30 percent of the screen system. Each panel was numbered for efficient installation and bolts in each of the panels’ four corners prevent damage from wind and other environmental factors. The modularity of the panel system also provides for future design flexibility. “If you rearrange the space internally and want to reconfigure the facade, you can change out the panels for more or less opacity,” said Rozencwajg. The panels are finished with a metallic powdercoat that changes hue based on the sun’s angle. Since the historical listing prohibited the architects from altering the existing building—including the old sash windows—the new curtain wall had to improve overall building performance. The south elevation features double glazing to minimize heat gain and natural ventilation is enhanced with trickle vents and energy-efficient windows on the new level. The combined efforts resulted in a BREAM rating of Very Good.
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Rotman School makes the most of high-performance concrete and glassThe University of Toronto Rotman School of Management’s nearly $100 million expansion project will more than double the size of the business school. A new 161,000-square-foot building designed by Toronto-based KPMB Architects mediates between its neighbors—a historic 19th century brick home on one side and the towering Brutalist Robarts Library on the other—while maintaining views to the medieval Oxbridge-style Massey College to the east. The architect’s solution to the architectural mixture is an elevated box made with floor-to-ceiling glazing punctuated by slivers of Ductal, a patented ultra-high performance concrete made by Lafarge. The building’s curtain wall is partly clad with more than 350 dark gray Ductal panels that are just 30 millimeters thick. Panels range from .5 to 1 meters wide by 3.5 to 5.3 meters high. An additional 100 panels, each only 19 millimeters thick, create an interior feature wall. The color and texture of the curtain wall’s opaque sections complement the black slate rooftops of several houses nearby. Fabricated by Ontario-based precast manufacturer Armtec, the panels were made with Ductal because of the concrete’s aesthetic quality and its ability to meet the structural requirements of a curtain wall application. KPMB’s challenge was to meet the university's request for a long, thin, lightweight span facade panel more than 5 meters tall, with a durable exterior surface. They hoped for a material that would show no signs of wear from the elements over time. Ductal could create a very thin, monolithic-plate, slab-type design with a custom-colored and molded surface that would also “plug-and-play” with curtain wall framing systems without intermediate jointing. The panels went through several iterations during the project’s mockup phase. Because Ductal was a fairly new material to Armtec, they studied its structural capabilities before developing the final panel manufacturing process and appearance. The final panel pattern and size is based on the need to keep the glass panels down to ±40 percent of the overall skin (due to energy performance criteria for LEED). The design also accommodates one operable window per office. The weight of the larger Ductal panels, along with the oversized unitized curtain wall panels, created some installation challenges during construction. Because the panels had a smooth exterior surface, the contractor was able to use vacuum cup lifters typically used with glass to install the panels. The technique allowed the smooth-panel fabrication processes to be maintained while keeping the project on schedule and reducing installation costs. Recently completed, the facade has added an appealing new face to the campus ahead of the building’s completion. When the addition opens later this year, the new structure will be fully integrated with the existing business school, allowing students to move through both buildings via several horizontal connections and a full-height atrium and staircase.
For the last couple of weeks, every night's been a party as the Millenium Tower plays host to Icons of Design, one of those opportunistic design events where hopefully everyone wins: High-end real estate is shown off, designers display their creative chops, charities get money, and the public gets a chance to wander through fantasy, "cost-is-no-object" spaces. For me, a trip up to the 52nd floor--the building has 60 floors, but my ears were already popping on the way down--was a chance to gawk at the latest in curtain walls. According to John Ishihara of Handel Architects, the unitized curtain wall system was built in China and snapped together on site. The bottom windows are operable, with top hinges so that rain doesn't come in, and they open up 4 inches. There is a one-inch gap between the two halves of the mullions, which enables a "trickle vent"--if you don't want to open the window, you can still let in fresh air but not the noise of the traffic below, muffled by the aluminum framing and internal baffles. Being able to open a window made this space, 52 floors up in the air, feel a little homier than your typical sleek condo. And the interior design? Most of the designers went for tasteful opulence, with luxurious fabrics and exotic woods standing in for last century's patterning and gilding. Local stars Martha Angus and Charles De Lisle evoked a more contemporary sense of fun. And then there was the dining room by Martin Richards. With two enormous photographs (of a yoga teacher and her rocker husband, a takeoff on ducal Renaissance portraits), framed by lamps held by hand sculptures, the room was a like a modern version of Cocteau's La Belle et La Bête. Wouldn't it be fun to hold a dinner party in a space like that? The Icons of Design showcase is open to the public on weekends through November 22.
Morris Lapidus' Fontainebleau in Miami is one of the most recognizable hotels in the United States, thanks in no small part to its frequent appearances in television shows and films, perhaps most notably and intimately in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. A recent two-year revitalization has brought the old bastion of luxury and class—which had begun to show its wear—back to prime condition. More than just polish up the surfaces, the effort included the addition of a free-standing spa. The designers, Dallas-based architectural firm HKS, selected a blue tinted glass for the spa's curtain wall. In addition to referencing the adjacent pool's azure complexion, the glass (1 5/16-inch thick Viracon laminated units with a Vanceva Storm interlayer) meets Miami's strict large missile impact and hurricane codes. Goldfinger would be proud.