Posts tagged with "EHDD":

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Science center with giant Vitruvian Man coming to Pennsylvania

West Coast readers may be familiar with EHDD through its work on the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco. Its latest project has many similar elements: In addition to its whiz-bang features, the Da Vinci Science Center in Easton, Pennsylvania will have exhibits on plants and animals native to the Lehigh Valley. There will also be a permanent exhibit on da Vinci that explores how the Renaissance polymath's work influences the mission of the namesake museum.

A 400-seat theater, an observatory on the roof, a weather station, a indoor skydiving simulation, and a zoo component round out the program.

Outside in the garden, The Morning Call reported that visitors will be able to lounge near a 12-foot-tall replica of Leonardo’s Horse, the sculpture da Vinci completed for the Duke of Milan in 1482.

While the project timeline is still being finalized, construction on the $130 million is slated to begin in 2019 or 2020.

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Major Aquarium of the Pacific expansion breaks ground

San Francisco-based architects EHDD and the Aquarium of the Pacific broke ground today on a 29,000-square-foot expansion of the aquarium's existing, portside facilities in Long Beach, California. The so-called Pacific Visions expansion will bring a new two-story wing to the aquarium complex that includes a state-of-the-art immersive theater, expanded exhibition and art galleries, and additional space for live animal exhibits. The expansion will also feature an updated front entry pavilion as well as a new exhibition hall for installations, performances, and cultural programming. The effort represents the largest expansion to the aquarium since its founding in 1998. The original structure was built by EHDD and the Los Angeles office of architecture firm HOK and is defined by its series of wave-shaped roof planes supported by slender columns spanned with tall sheets of glass. In a press release for the project, EHDD Design Principal Marc L’Italien said, “It’s not often that we have the opportunity to expand upon a building that we have designed before. The new building flows with the original building but it's also a counterpoint to it.” The new addition takes the wavy motify further. EHDD has proposed a “biomorphic design” inspired by the water-based forms of the original structure that, through bulbous undulations and variegated exterior cladding, mimics the effect of sunlight traveling through water. The structure’s rippled exterior is clad in a ventilated rainscreen made up of 800 triple-layer laminated glass assembly panels. Each layer in the assembly—the inner-most layer is slightly reflective, the central layer is tinted blue, and the exterior layer is acid-etched and made of low-iron glass—will work together to catch, reflect, and treat light in a dynamic manner. The panel assemblies–which are supported by an aluminum frame—have also been designed to minimize the appearance of joints. The outer surface of the 18,000-square-foot exterior is acid-treated to minimize the direct reflection of nearby trees and sky so that birds will not be confused. L’Italien described the facade in terms of its temporal qualities, saying, “there is depth and mystery to the form and to the glass skin. Depending on the time of day and where you're viewing the building from, it will appear differently to everyone, forever changing, just like the oceans that inspired it.” The $53 million expansion, due to be completed in 2018, comes as the second and final phase of the institution’s Campus Master Plan from 2005. The plan aims to develop the aquarium’s role in the community as a public gathering place where scientists, policy makers, and the public can “celebrate the inhabitants and ecosystems of the Pacific Ocean and explore today’s most important environmental issues.”
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Long Beach Aquarium Expansion Will Add 29,000 Square Feet

The largest aquarium in the U.S. (and the world) might be the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta—it hosts more than 100,000 animals and 550,000 square feet of exhibits. But the West coast—southern California more specifically—has the Aquarium of the Pacific. It features 5-acres of exhibits and over 500 marine species, and even a dive immersion program into a tropical reef exhibit. And it's about to get bigger. On the heels of SeaWorld announcing the end its controversial Shamu killer whale shows and breeding program by 2019, the almost 18-year old Aquarium of the Pacific released renderings and information on a new expansion, Pacific Visions. The aquarium is working with San Francisco-based architecture firm EHDD whose designers are also working on the Seattle Aquarium expansion. Renderings reveal a new 2-story theater with two projection areas: one curved along the wall (130 feet long by 32 feet tall), and a second on the floor (30-feet in diameter). Plans for the new wing will also add an art gallery and 6,000 square feet of space for rotating exhibits. The curves of the planned two-story wing resembles a blue whale. Its 800 panels of shimmering glass skin will also serve as a rain screen. The expansion is the last phase of the aquarium's 2005 master plan. The Aquarium of the Pacific was founded in 1998, "conceived as a cornerstone of a waterfront retail and amusement complex that would bring visitors to Long Beach at a time when it was struggling to cope with the closure of a Navy shipyard and the loss of about 50,000 jobs,” writes the Los Angeles Times. So far, the aquarium has raised over $35 million of the $53 million project budget through public and private funding. The target opening date is late 2018.
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Kreysler & Associates Erects an FRP First in San Francisco

Wave-like composite facade animates SFMOMA expansion.

While visually interesting, the primary facade of the SFMOMA expansion (Snøhetta with associate architect EHDD) was not originally designed to pioneer a new material system. All that changed when William Kreysler visited the architect's New York office. "I went there to meet them about the interior," recalled Kreysler, whose firm—composite specialists Kreysler & Associates—had been called in to advise on the project's vaulted ceilings. "I asked about the exterior, how that was going to get done. They didn't know." Over the coming months, Kreysler & Associates transitioned from interior consultant to envelope fabricator as the facade itself was transformed from a ductal concrete fantasy to a fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) reality. Along the way, thanks to a patent-pending process developed by Kreysler & Associates, the design and fabrication team positioned itself on the cutting edge of high performance building enclosures with the first major use of FRP cladding on a multi-story facade in North America. When a client's representative called to ask if his firm—at that point poised to collaborate with an outside glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) contractor on mold-making—would consider taking on fabrication themselves, Kreysler's reaction was mixed. "I said, 'Yes, I don't see anything particularly complicated about it in terms of fabrication,'" he recalled. "The problem was the fire codes. No one in the [FRP] business had attempted to pass the fire code requirements." Kreysler & Associates had been keeping abreast of the regulatory situation, and had been involved in inserting a new section for FRP into the International Building Code[s]. But the fire code test itself, NFPA 285, is expensive. After further conversation, the client committed to partially fund the test. "We got to the point where I said, 'Okay, I'm willing to put some money at risk here,'" said Kreysler. "We went ahead and did it." Kreysler & Associates' system, which they call Fireshield 285, passed the test, likely becoming the first FRP cladding panel to do so. Having thus paved the way for a more widespread application of the lightweight material to building exteriors, the fabricator's next step was to bid to three facade companies. Of the firms to which they introduced their design, Enclos was the most engaged. By the end of the first meeting, Kreysler & Associates and Enclos had brainstormed ideas to eliminate the secondary structural frame intended to go in front of the weatherproof wall specified in the original design.
  • Facade Manufacturer Kreysler & Associates
  • Architects Snøhetta, EHDD (associate architect)
  • Facade Installer Enclos
  • Facade Consultants Arup
  • Location San Francisco, CA
  • Date of Completion expected 2016
  • System FRP veneer over unitized facade panel rain screen
  • Products custom Fireshield 285 FRP panels, unitized facade panels with waterproof membrane and fireproofing, custom mechanical attachment system
Soon the group introduced an additional innovation. Enclos is known for its expertise in unitized panel systems rather than conventional walls, explained Kreysler. "We said, 'Maybe we could make our material so lightweight, we could just fasten our material onto the front of the unitized wall panel.'" Kreysler is quick to give credit to Enclos "for seeing the potential and sharing their expertise in building facades so we could work collaboratively to take full advantage of both systems' strengths."  With a combined composite-unitized wall panel assembly, one team of contractors could erect the entire rain screen in a single shot. "It would save one million pounds of structural steel, plus the time of going around the building three times," said Kreysler. Not surprisingly, "the contractor liked it, and the owner liked it," he recalled. Only one obstacle remained. "Unitized wall systems are designed to go in straight lines, or if curved, are curved in a radius," said Kreysler. "But if you look at the facade of SFMOMA, it's all over the place." The Kreysler & Associates-Enclos team quickly developed a solution: Kreysler & Associates would fabricate their panels with edges of different depths to bridge the gap between the facade's surface and the flat unitized panel wall. "We were able to create a curved front even though the the wall behind was a nice straight line," explained Kreysler. "From the front of the building you don't see any of the edges—you see this flowing curved line. That was a big breakthrough, and as a result, Enclos really got behind our system." The client was suitably impressed, and Kreysler & Associates won the contract against bids involving GFRC systems. "Even if our price turned out to be higher, the benefits of only going around the building one time, and the benefits of a system considered to be a higher-quality weatherproof wall" won out, said Kreysler. Though the expansion is not expected to open until 2016, Kreysler & Associates' work on the project is finished. The installation went "beautifully," said Kreysler. The 710 unique FRP panels were mechanically fastened and bonded to the unitized wall using a custom aluminum extrusion. The Enclos representatives had been nervous, he recalled. However, "the project manager told me that in the years he's being doing this, it was the most complicated project he's ever done, but in the end this was the most straightforward part of the project." As for Kreysler himself, he has no regrets—quite the opposite. "It was tricky, but it was fun and interesting," he said. "And it was nice to know that we were breaking new ground."
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Packard Foundation Goes Green With EHDD

Net zero energy, LEED Platinum project raises the bar on eco-friendly office design.

For its new headquarters in Los Altos, California, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation put its building budget where its mouth is. The philanthropic organization, whose four program areas include conservation and science, asked San Francisco-based EHDD to design a net zero energy, LEED Platinum building that would serve as a model of cutting-edge green building techniques. “They wanted to achieve net zero in a way that was replicable, and that showed the path forward for others to follow,” said project manager Brad Jacobson. “It was not just a one-off thing, not just a showcase.” The building’s facade was fundamental to its success as an example of sustainable design. “We were surprised at how significant the envelope is, even in the most benign climate,” said Jacobson. “Pushing the envelope to really high performance made significant energy and comfort impacts, and could be justified even on a first-cost basis.” EHDD began by considering the building’s siting. Because the street grid in Los Altos is angled 40 degrees to the south, orienting to the street would result in a long southwest elevation. The architects asked daylighting consultants Loisos + Ubbelohde what penalty this would entail. “They said you have to keep all solar gain out of the southwest facade; if you do that, the energy penalty will be in the realm of less than five percent,” recalled Jacobson. “But you really have to do an excellent job on sunshading. That was our mission.” EHDD designed deep overhangs over much of the facade’s southwest face, and added balconies and shade trees for additional protection. Where the glazing remained exposed, they installed external movable blinds from Nysan that operate on an astronomic time clock. “The blinds worked really well,” said Jacobson. “We were surprised how easy they were to commission and get working, and how relatively robust they are.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Serious Materials (glazing; now Alpen HPP)
  • Architects EHDD
  • Facade Consultants Integral Group (energy), Atelier Ten (thermal modeling of wall), Loisos + Ubbelohde (daylighting)
  • Facade Installer AGA (glazing), DPR Construction (general contractor)
  • Location Los Altos, CA
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • System advanced framing wood stud walls with mineral wallboard insulation, triple element windows, external blinds, FSC western red cedar cladding, Mt. Moriah stone, copper cladding
  • Products Nysan external movable blinds, Roxul insulation, Serious Materials triple-element Windows, FSC-certified red cedar, locally-sourced stone, architectural copper
Thermal bridging was another area of concern for the architects. EHDD worked with Atelier Ten on thermal modeling of the wall, and discovered that any metal stud wall would sacrifice performance. They opted instead for wood stud construction, and switched to 24 on center framing to reduce thermal bridging through the framing structure. For insulation, the architects added one-inch external mineral wallboard from Roxul. On advice from structural engineers Tipping Mar, they installed FRP plates to separate external elements like balconies from the main structure. Because of the building’s location, EHDD did not initially consider triple glazing for the Packard Foundation offices. “We wrote it off at first,” said Jacobson. “We thought, that can’t be cost effective in this climate.” But Integral Group’s energy analysis convinced the design team otherwise. The improvement in comfort allowed by triple element windows from Serious Materials (now Alpen HPP) was such that the architects were able to eliminate a planned perimeter heating system, resulting in an estimated savings of twice the cost of the glazing upgrade. “It’s a really good envelope,” said Jacobson. “We did heat sensor testing of the building, and you can really see that it’s working as it’s supposed to. You don’t see the studs, and the windows are not leaking a lot of heat, so that’s been a real success.” The architects clad the building in local and sustainable materials, including FSC-certified western red cedar, stone sourced from within a 500-mile radius, and architectural copper. “Architectural copper is a really interesting material,” observed Jacobson. “It’s actually about 80-90 percent recycled because it’s valued. It doesn’t need refinishing and it patinas nicely. For a building being built to last 100 years, it has a good shot at never needing to be refinished or replaced.” Jacobson summarizes his firm’s approach to the design of the Packard Foundation headquarters as “Passive House light.” “At the same time we were doing a Passive House for a climate science researcher we’d worked with in the past,” he said. “We were working on both and learning from each. It’s a different type of building, but a lot of the same principles apply: good air sealing, eliminating thermal bridging, and pushing the envelope further than you think makes sense.”
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AIA’s Committee On The Environment Announces 2014’s Top 10 Green Buildings

The AIA's Committee on the Environment (COTE) has announced the winners of its annual sustainability awards program. Now in its 18th year, the COTE awards celebrate green architecture, design, and technology. According to a press release, the winning projects must “make a positive contribution to their communities, improve comfort for building occupants and reduce environmental impacts.” Each of the ten winners will be officially honored at the AIA's National Convention and Design Exhibition in Chicago later this year, but, in the meantime, here’s a closer look at the 10 winners. Arizona State University Student Health Services (Pictured at top) Tempe, Arizona Lake|Flato Architects + Orcutt|Winslow According to the AIA: “The Arizona State University (ASU) Health Services Building is an adaptive reuse project that transformed the existing sterile and inefficient clinic into a clearly organized, efficient, and welcoming facility. The design imbues the new facility with a sense of health and wellness that leverages Tempe’s natural environment and contributes to a more cohesive pedestrian oriented campus. The building’s energy performance is 49% below ASHRAE 90.1-2007, exceeding the current target of the 2030 Challenge. The facility achieved LEED Platinum certification and is one of the best energy performers on campus as evidenced by ASU’s Campus Metabolism interactive web-tool tracking real-time resource use.” Bud Clark Commons Portland, Oregon Holst Architecture According to the AIA: “As a centerpiece of Portland’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, this LEED Platinum project provides a continuum of services to help transition homeless individuals toward stable, permanent living arrangements. The architecture helps achieve this goal with a walk-in day center with public courtyard and access to support services; a 90-bed temporary shelter; and a separate and secure entrance to 130 efficient, furnished studio apartments for homeless individuals seeking permanent housing. The building’s design aims to deinstitutionalize services and housing for the most vulnerable in our population. Sustainable features include large-scale graywater recycling, zero stormwater runoff, solar hot water, and a high-performance envelope, resulting in energy savings estimated at $60,000 annually.” Bushwick Inlet Park Brooklyn, New York Kiss + Cathcart, Architects According to the AIA: “This project is the first phase of the transformation of the Greenpoint–Williamsburg waterfront from a decaying industrial strip to a multifaceted public park. The design team integrated a program of playfields, public meeting rooms, classrooms, and park maintenance facilities, into a city-block sized site. The park building becomes a green hill on the west side, making 100% of the site usable to the public, and offering views to Manhattan. Below the green roof is a complex of building systems – ground source heat pump wells, rainwater harvest and storage, and drip irrigation. A solar trellis produces half the total energy used in the building.” Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt (EGWW) Federal Building Modernization Portland, Oregon SERA Architects in association with Cutler Anderson Architects According to the AIA:  “On track to be one of the lowest energy-use buildings in the U.S., EGWW is a model for U.S. General Services Administration nationwide. The project’s goal was to transform the existing building from an aging, energy hog to one of the premiere environmentally-friendly buildings in the nation. With a unique facade of “reeds”, light shelf /sunshades designed by orientation and a roof canopy that supports a 180 kW photovoltaic array while collecting rainwater, EGWW pushes the boundaries for innovative sustainable deign strategies. In addition to the energy improvements, the design reveals the history of the building, exposing the artifacts of the original builders.” Gateway Center - SUNY-ESF College of Environmental Science & Forestry Syracuse, NY Architerra According to the AIA: “The SUNY-ESF College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center is a striking symbol of environmental stewardship and climate action leadership. This LEED Platinum campus center meets ESF’s goal of reducing the overall carbon footprint of the campus through net positive renewable energy production, while creating a combined heat and power plant and intensive green roof that serve as hands-on teaching and research tools. The double-ended bioclimatic form exemplifies passive solar design. Net positive energy systems integrated with the design serve four adjacent ESF buildings, providing 60% of annual campus heating needs and 20% of annual power needs.” John & Frances Angelos Law Center Baltimore, Maryland Behnisch Architekten and Ayers Saint Gross According to the AIA: “The John and Frances Angelos Law Center is the first large-scale opportunity for the University of Baltimore to demonstrate its intent to pursue strategies that eliminate global warming emissions and achieve climate neutrality. With this in mind, the Law Center is a highly sustainable and innovative structure that strives to reduce reliance on energy and natural resources, minimizing its dependence on mechanical ventilation and artificial lighting of interiors. This is part of a larger comprehensive effort on the part of the A/E team to approach sustainability from a more holistic vantage point from the outset of the project.” Sustainability Treehouse Glen Jean, West Virginia Design Architect: Mithun; Executive Architect/Architect of Record: BNIM According to the AIA: “Situated in the forest at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, this interactive, interpretive and gathering facility serves as a unique icon of scouting adventure, environmental stewardship and high performance building design. Visitors ascend indoor and outdoor platforms to experience the forest from multiple vantages and engage with educational exhibits that explore the site and ecosystem at the levels of ground, tree canopy and sky. Innovative green building systems—including a 6,450-watt photovoltaic array output, two 4,000-watt wind turbines, and a 1,000-gallon cistern and water cleansing system—combine to yield a net-zero energy and net-zero water facility that touches its site lightly.” The David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters Los Altos, California EHDD According to the AIA: “The David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters acts as a catalyst for broad organizational sustainability and brings staff, grantees and partners together to solve the world’s most intractable problems. The Foundation's connection to the Los Altos community dates back to its inception in 1964. For the last two decades, as its grant making programs expanded locally and worldwide, staff and operations have been scattered in buildings throughout the city. This project enhances proximity and collaboration while renewing the Foundation’s commitment to the local community by investing in a downtown project intended to last through the end of 21st century.” U.S. Land Port of Entry Warroad, Minnesota Snow Kreilich Architects According to the AIA: “This LEED Gold certified Land Port of Entry is the first to employ a ground source heat pump system. Sustainably harvested cedar was used on the entire exterior envelope, canopies and some interior walls and 98% of all wood on the project is FSC certified. Additionally 22% of the material content came from recycled materials and 91% of all work areas have access to daylight. Rainwater collection, reconstructed wetlands and native plantings address resource and site-specific responses. The facility proudly supports the mission-driven demands of US Customs and Border Protection while addressing the sustainable challenges of our future.” Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse Grand Junction, Colorado Design Architect, Westlake Reed Leskosky and Architect of Record, The Beck Group According to the AIA: “The LEED® Platinum renovation preserves an anchor in Grand Junction, and converts the 1918 landmark into one of the most energy efficient, sustainable historic buildings in the country. The design aims to be GSA’s first Site Net-Zero Energy facility on the National Register. Exemplifying sustainable preservation, it restores and showcases historic volumes and finishes, while sensitively incorporating innovative systems and drastically reducing energy consumption. Features include a roof canopy-mounted 123 kW photovoltaic array, variable-refrigerant flow heating and cooling systems, 32-well passive Geo-Exchange system, a thermally upgraded enclosure, energy recovery, wireless controls, fluorescent and LED lighting, and post-occupancy monitoring.”
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Seattle Aquarium Expansion Moving Forward

Although Seattle's Big Bertha—the giant tunnel boring machine powering the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel alongside Seattle's waterfront—will be delayed until next March for repairs, the nearby Seattle Aquarium is moving steadily ahead with its plans for a major expansion. The institution has just brought in San Francisco–based EHDD principal Marc L'Italien, who will lead concept designs for the project. A veteran of aquarium, museum, and zoo design, his firm helmed the Monterey Bay Aquarium design and renovated a dormant pier along the San Francisco Embarcadero into the new home for the Exploratorium. The Seattle Aquarium plans to grow by 70percent, to a total of 184,500 square feet. The additional space would provide room for new exhibits and educational facilities, building upon the draft concept program by Seattle firm Mithun. The aquarium is working with L'Italien to assemble a design and engineering team. In September, the team will present their plans to the Seattle City Council for review. Construction and fundraising for the aquarium expansion will take place over several phases, with anticipated completion by 2020, to coincide with the opening of the new waterfront.
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Presenting the Winners of the AIA SF Awards

On Thursday, the architecturati were at the War Memorial Performing Arts Center's Green Room to see who won in this year's AIA SF Awards. This year only saw 27 awards presented, half the number of last year's 54--perhaps an indication of how hard the economic downturn has hit this area. But despite the shorter program, there was no shortage of distinctive projects. Taking home top honors in the Architecture category was Ogrydziak Prillinger's Gallery House (photo at top), which impressed the jury for its "reinterpretation of the San Francisco bay window," among other things. Alas, the  images that were shown while the virtues of the house were being described were of HOK's Merit-winning library in Saudi Arabia,  the one glitch in the evening. Interestingly, the other Honor winner for Architecture was EHDD's Marin Country Day School, which is not only a graceful building rendered in wood and steel, it is also net-zero-energy and LEED Platinum. Since EHDD got the nod for Architecture, as opposed to Energy + Sustainability, it's a indication that the profession is starting to value design and sustainability together as a package. Mark Cavagnero's sensitive additions to the Oakland Museum of California and Perkins+Will's careful restoration of the Presidio Landmark were singled out in the historical preservation category. This category is a recent addition to the awards lineup, but one that should continue to have some great entries. In interiors, an amused murmur went up in the crowd when they learned about Sand Studios' medical marijuana dispensary, SPARC, which took home a Citation award.  But the biggest laugh of the evening came when the picturesque Honor winner for unbuilt work was announced: Anderson Anderson Architecture's Lips Tower, described as a "thirsty urban utility, sucking water and solar energy from the sky."
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Creating Vernacular Modern in Rural China

One of the Bay Area's venerable firms, EHDD (founded in 1972 by Joseph Esherick, George Homsey, Peter Dodge and Chuck Davis, the last of which is still active in the office), joins the list of firms that have been working in China. However, its new project is not a speculative skyscraper in Shanghai or some other bigger-than-thou marquee building.  It is an architectural triumph of another sort: a much-needed rural school that incorporates modern methodologies for sustainable design. It also manages to evoke Chinese vernacular architecture in a modest, graceful way--an aesthetic coup that seems to be a rarity in modern China. As Jennifer Devlin, one of EHDD's current principals, says of the project in a short but effective video, "[We set out to design] first and foremost a seismically safe school that met key green sustainable principles...that were really not our imposing our way of doing things in Bay Area, so much as responding to the environmental and social conditions there appropriately." The Zhang Jia Yuan Elementary School is laid out like traditional courtyard house, with swooping roofs of clay tile. The sustainability enhancements also include things as simple as insulating silk curtains. "The children....warm up the room, and at night you close [the curtains] to capture the heat," says Devlin. The pro-bono effort was inspired by EHDD's participation in Public Architecture's 1% program, which encourages the profession to give one percent of their time to charitable design.
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AIA SF Awards

Once again our friend Stanley Saitowitz—San Francisco architecture's answer to Meryl Streep— took home the most honors at the AIA SF's annual awards, held at the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center last Thursday. Saitowitz took home prizes for his elegant, and relatively affordable, Tampa Museum of Art, his screen-obsessed Costa Rica house, and his effervescent Toast Restaurant in Novato, CA, which the jury described as "like walking inside a loaf of bread…..like swimming in sparkling champagne…." . Other big winners included Jensen Architects, noted for their SFMOMA rooftop garden and Walden Studios in Sonoma; EHDD, which took home awards for its UC Merced Science and Engineering Building and its Pritzker Family Children's Zoo in Lincoln Park, IL; and Min Day, which took home prizes for its L Residence and its Community CROPS Center, both in Nebraska.
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Salesmanship, Snohetta-Style

Just by looking at the mind-boggling New Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, an architectural cliff on the edge of a fjord, you might think there'd be a lot of dense archibabble floating around at the firm Snøhetta.  We have been paying closer attention to them out here in San Francisco, after hearing rumors that they are in the running for the SFMOMA extension in partnership with locals EHDD. So it was doubly refreshing to hear one of the two principals, Craig Dykers, give a presentation about the firm last Friday at the AIA SF offices that was not only highly intelligible but often humorous: many choice quotes have been posted elsewhere on the Dwell blog. I started thinking about what it was that made the presentation (and the firm) seem so accessible, and came up with a few points (which I will take to heart myself the next time I am called upon for some sort of exposition). Because we all have to work at making ourselves and our ideas compelling to people who don't know who we are; and as in any business, our success depends in part on our ability to connect with clients. 1. ) A portfolio is more interesting when it shows both the most impressive projects but also examples of  humbler work. Dykers showed pictures of the Opera House and the library in Alexandria, but also photos from a small act of activism where they installed birdhouses everywhere to see how many they could put up before being stopped by authorities (they got to 42). 2. ) There are professional accolades, and then there is the reaction of the public at large. Dykers searched Flickr and YouTube to find photos  and videos that people have taken of the firm's buildings, including one (very daring) video of a stunt cyclist climbing the opera house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWh9tO9KJ5U 3.) Show, don't tell--especially if you are saying something that everyone says. Dykers had a fun way to show the office in action: Koyaanisqatsi-style time-lapse video of  one long table where everyone comes together for lunch,  an "ampitheatre" where the whole office can gather, and an espresso machine in heavy use. He could have spent a lot of time going, "We're a very collaborative office and believe in sharing ideas," but the audience would have glazed over. 4.) Sincerity and commitment can be displayed on many levels. Talk about transparency: Dykers shared the company's salary range (entry level is $68K, while his own salary is $168K) and how they go to great lengths to keep the genders precisely balanced (the 110 staff members are 55 men, 55 women).  Whatever you may think of Snøhetta's designs,  you can't say that the firm doesn't have strong principles.