Steven Holl Architects, in collaboration with Rüssli Architekten, has been selected by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) to design the organization’s new Geneva Operational Center. The winning proposal’s playful design was selected unanimously over international proposals from Pool Architekten & Mak Architecture, Sauerbruch Hutton, Emilio Tuñon Arquitectos and Ruckstuhl Architekten, Blue Architects, and Consortium Sou Foujimoto with The New Talent Workshop. Broken up into several distinct cubic volumes and clad in a boldly colored photovoltaic glass curtain-wall facade, the building has been nicknamed “Colors of Humanity.” Much more than a decorative element, the glass is composed of 40-percent-transparent solar cells. By changing the color and permeability of the glass across the Operational Center, the facade can shade, cool and power the building all at once while still allowing operable windows. When combined with the more efficient photovoltaic panels nestled within the roof garden, and the Geneva district Genilac lake water loop, 72 percent of the building’s electricity will be self-produced. Providing workstations, meeting rooms, classrooms, and social spaces for over 250 Doctors Without Borders employees, the design also offers an inherently flexible approach to programming. By overlaying criss-crossing passages throughout the interior with seated alcoves and meeting spaces, the firm set out to spur spontaneous conversation and collaboration among the many different types of staff. “These centers serve as a friendly catalyst for interaction, acting like social condensers within the building,” Steven Holl Architects explained. Providing support for more than 6,300 employees across 23 countries, the Center will house several other international project teams such as the “International Office,” the international secretariat, which includes activities related to the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, and various pilot projects. Keeping the diversity of the organization’s work in mind, the Center’s form and photovoltaic systems were designed with the possibility of expansion in the future. “Steven Holl Architects’ project is the opportunity for MSF to integrate its core values like independence, impartiality, neutrality, altruism and dynamism in a challenging new architecture and project itself in the future," said Mathieu Soupart, Logistics Director for the Geneva Operational Center, in a prepared statement. With an expected start date of spring 2019, the Geneva Operational Center will neighbor the Higher International Studies and Development, designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates, and the Terra and Casa Foundation expatriate housing by Bonnard Woeffray Architectes.
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Brought to you with support fromSurrounded by parkland and built on a former industrial site, the new JTI Headquarters is located in a Geneva district home to prestigious international organizations. JTI (Japan Tobacco International) is a global tobacco company whose flagship brands include Winston, Camel, Mild Seven, Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut. The competition-winning design consolidates four existing JTI premises within a single landmark building. The project—a collaboration between SOM’s architecture, structural engineering, and interior teams—was led by their London office, but involved expertise from SOM offices in New York and Chicago, along with architects on site in Geneva throughout construction. Kent Jackson, design partner at SOM, said the new building demonstrates SOM’s commitment to integrated design, sustainability, and innovative workplace solutions. "Clearly we feel it is a huge benefit to bring all of our disciplines together and bringing different experts from across our offices. This is something we think brings added value to a project." The building’s innovative Closed Cavity Facade (CCF) was designed in collaboration with Josef Gartner GmbH as a unitized curtain wall system that responds to the demands of seasonally changing external climatic conditions while providing exceptional views out and maximizing daylight penetration into the workspace. The facade prioritizes occupant comfort and reduces the energy demand and carbon emissions of the building, helping it to meet the requirements of European energy directives and the Swiss Minergie sustainability rating. The floor-to-ceiling glazed panels measure approximately 10-foot-wide-by-14-feet-tall and consist of triple glazing on the inner layer and single glazing on the outer, forming a cavity with a fabric roller blind in between. One challenge with a typical double skin facade is the risk of condensation and dirt in the cavity. This introduces the need to provide maintenance access to the cavity, either by opening up the interior side or exterior side of the assembly. The closed cavity facade at JTI reduces these requirements, because rather than drawing external air into the cavity, the cavity is pressurized with a very small amount of filtered and dehumidified air from a pipe system that runs around the perimeter of the building. This ensures dirt and moisture from outside don't travel through into the cavity, while also preventing condensation inside the cavity. To achieve this design, SOM relied on facade contractors who have become skilled in the assembly of envelopes that minimize building air leakage. Martin Grinnell, Associate Director at SOM and Technical Lead on the project, attributes this to increasingly stringent air tightness standards in Europe, where many buildings undergo building envelope pressure testing. "We were confident we could achieve this design and get a very careful balance of air tightness with a modest pump in the basement to pressurize all of the facade panels." The German-made closed cavity facade was shop-built in individual unitized panels comprised of both the inner and outer layer of glazing. By producing these units in a controlled factory environment, the fabrication sequence could ensure the cavity remained clean throughout the construction process. The panels were tested in the factory for air tightness, and whilst stored in the yard of the factory they were temporarily tapped into an air supply system which kept the cavity pressurized prior to delivery to site. Once installed on site, the panels were plugged immediately into a network of pressurized air so that the cavity would not draw in dirty air or moisture from construction activity. With just a single glazed pane on the outer layer of the facade, Grinnell says the project team was able to produce a more expressive facade. “We were able to achieve a quilted appearance on the outside; incorporating very delicate mullions, transoms, and diagonal elements because we were using a single outer layer. We were able to facet this layer much more easily than if we were trying to do that with a double or triple glazed layer. I think this lent a real delicacy to the detailing of the outer skin of the facade." Grinnell said the facade represents one of the best performing all-glass facade systems in SOM’s history. "This was a great project, and is a great demonstration of what a closed cavity facade system can do. We're very proud of it. All of the European countries—UK included—are pushing harder and harder on energy efficiency, and clients are quite rightly looking to us to improve the efficiency of our facades. We are going to be developing more and more facades which rely on dynamic performance—having to achieve very good solar control in the summer, while admitting sunlight in the winter—and the closed cavity facade is a really interesting solution to achieve that."
How do you coax city slickers to really take notice of air pollution? Start selling meringues, of course. At this year's Ideas City festival in New York City, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy set up a "Smog Tasting" food cart introducing aeroir (a play on terroir for the atmospheric taste of place) meringues infused with recreated urban smog from four cities. Riffing off the fact that egg foam is composed of 90 percent air, the Center’s experiment stemmed from the question of whether batter, which captures air when whipped, could also trap air pollutants. “Smog Tasting grew out of this idea of using food as a biosensor...Perhaps this could be a way of calling attention to the problem,” Zackary Denfield, cofounder at the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, told Fast Company. The meringues were made in small smog chambers the team had designed and fabricated under the advisement of researchers at the University of California Riverside, which trapped grime and chemicals in the egg-white-and-sugar mixture. The four less-than-tantalizing recipes included the “classic London peasouper,” a sampling of the Los Angeles atmosphere circa 1950, air from a present-day air-quality warning event in Atlanta, and California’s Central Valley agricultural smog, the latter a carcinogenic cocktail of ammonia and amines from feedlot manure lagoons and other organic waste. Scientists formed each smog type by mixing different chemical precursors and “baking” them under UV light. The result was a slightly yellowish dessert which imparted a noxious aftertaste initially masked by the sugar. “Most people ask ‘Is it safe to eat?’ and we reply ‘Is it safe to breathe?’” Denfield said. “We think that when people are laughing they are thinking, and we get a lot of nervous laughter.” According to the Center, capturing smog in edible form transforms the “unconscious” process of breathing into the “visceral” act of eating. Inspiring disgust is one way of garnering attention. Conceptualized in 2012 by college students in Bangalore, the project was introduced in May to health ministers and World Health Organization delegates in Geneva. Its showing in New York City by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy in collaboration with the Finnish Cultural Institute of New York was part of the Center’s larger scheme of examining the health implications of where our food is sourced. In a post on their dedicated blog, Edible Geography, the Center wrote that according to scientists the Center had consulted with, the human digestive system is better-equipped to catalyze chemicals than the respiratory system.