Posts tagged with "Gensler":
The long, low-slung Milwaukee Post Office is not a popular building. The rust-covered Brutalist structure sits along a five-block stretch of the Menominee Riverfront, a place that, until recently, was generally seen as the undesirable backside of the city. But that is all quickly changing. Just east of the post office, the Third Ward neighborhood has been completely transformed in the last ten years. The Menominee River Valley to the west is also seeing new life after over 100 years of being the city’s industrial heart. Now, Chicago-based developers R2, in collaboration with Gensler, are betting on a brighter future for the much-maligned post office.
When R2 bought the building and the surrounding land for $13 million in 2015, it knew it was going to be a long-term project. The United States Postal Service has a lease for its space through 2020, with the option to sign for up to 30 years. Even if the Postal Service were to vacate, the site would always have active train lines running under the building, between its massive concrete piloti. But that is not stopping R2 from planning ahead.
R2 and Gensler recently released new renderings and an outline of their plans for the site. Gensler’s designs call for a major mixed-use development that incorporates office space, residential, and entertainment, as well as small and big-box retail. The site benefits from extensive access to transportation, including ramps from the adjacent elevated freeway, the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, the city’s main Amtrak and Greyhound station, and the now under-construction city streetcar.
“The concerns that are on the site, that in the past have be seen as barriers to development, are now seen as potential drivers for the project,” explained Benjy Ward, Gensler principal and regional design leader. “The market has flipped. The elevated highway that runs by the site and the river have become assets.”
Along with renovating the current building, the project could include two large towers at each end of the site. The east tower would have 282,000 square feet of residential space, while the west tower (along with space in the existing building) would account for nearly one million square feet of office space. The 1,500 feet of riverfront would also be developed as a public promenade and an extension of the city’s growing Riverwalk. Restaurants will line the promenade, and kayak launches and boat docks will connect the project with river traffic. A foot bridge is proposed to connect the existing building to the James Biber–designed Harley Davidson Museum across the river.
Though the Postal Service will remain a tenant in the building for at least the next few years, Gensler’s plans are such that, if given the go-ahead, the project could begin. By working in the currently open land around the building, much of the proposal could be realized without disrupting normal operations.
If realized, the post office project will be one of many changing the face of downtown Milwaukee. Of those projects rising just north of the site, few are as ambitious in scale or program. Yet with at least three years to go before the site could be completely free of its current tenant, the city is going to have to wait a bit for delivery.
Tom Wiscombe Architecture beats out Zaha Hadid Architects and Gensler to redesign the L.A. billboard
Though digital modeling and documentation tools have been an integral part of architectural practice for decades, until recently, visualization tools hewed closely to traditional elements of two-dimensional representation. Several firms and independent practitioners, however, are striving to adopt virtual reality (VR) as a design tool.
At the corporate level, established firms like Gensler and NBBJ are setting up in-house VR departments and standing to benefit from their corporate heft and connections.
NBBJ’s Seattle office recently launched a business partnership with construction industry start up Visual Vocal to incubate and develop what the firm referred to as a “breakthrough virtual reality productivity platform.” The tool aims to streamline the firm’s collaborative design process by allowing clients on-demand access to project information and design updates. NBBJ Managing Partner Steve McConnell described the firm’s approach in a press release: “This partnership will radically shift the way design feedback is sourced and integrated into projects, and the speed at which it can be done. As a result, we can more broadly and deeply engage project stakeholders.… Virtual reality will deepen design discourse and bring together communities in new and exciting ways.”
Gensler’s Los Angeles office has taken the opposite approach, creating a virtual reality department that engages with existing VR technologies, looping the latest design tools into Gensler’s corporate workflow as they come online. Gensler’s San Francisco office utilized VR to create a highly detailed climate model as it designed a new headquarters for computer graphics card maker Nvidia. Alan Robles, experience designer in charge of VR technologies at Gensler’s L.A. office, described the firm’s efforts as an attempt to streamline the use of VR as a design tool, calling VR the “next logical evolution for rendering technologies.” Gensler integrates VR into its workflow early in the conceptual diagram stage while also pairing Unity software with Autodesk Revit later in the process to bring designers and clients directly into a working digital model where design options can be updated in real time.
The firm’s VR capabilities are also being utilized in the ongoing design of the new Los Angeles Football Club stadium in South Los Angeles, where Gensler’s team was able to integrate VR design approaches early into the design process to communicate possible sponsorship opportunities and overall project concept. VR is incorporated into the conceptual design phases, making Gensler’s approach toward VR basically one of normalizing the technology as a design tool. The evolution of project concepts in VR takes off from there, with the technology being deployed as necessary to convey design intent. These efforts result in a custom app made by Gensler’s in-house team that clients can use as a personalized marketing and development tool.
Operating in a parallel stream, a school of emerging designers has taken up VR as a key visualization and production tool.
Güvenç Özel, principal at Özel Office, made use of VR in a recent competition proposal made for NASA. His NASA 3D-Printed Habitat project, runner-up in the competition, creates a VR environment to convey its design intention and functionality. The project, showcased at the Architecture and Design Museum’s recent exhibition, Come In! DTLA, allowed observers to wear VR headsets to explore the scheme: A space capsule 3-D-printed from martian rock and occupied as an operating base for astronaut-explorer scientists.
Özel, who spoke to AN via email, described VR’s potential impact on architecture in no uncertain terms, saying, “The immersiveness of these digital environments are becoming so convincing that they start to exist as environments in their own right. I am convinced that the architecture of our near future involves physical and digital spaces superimposed on each other, and will further blur the lines between what is interface design and what is architectural design.” Designer Devin Gharakhanian, in collaboration with VR specialist Nels Long, presented Room XYZ at this year’s One-NightStand L.A. showcase, utilizing VR to recontextualize an all-white room into a variety of experiences. The project, in a different iteration, places the viewer into a precise, virtual recreation of an elaborately staged room. For the two architecturally-trained artists, the works serve to explore existential architectural issues directly.
Adding to this inertia, is a growing stock of interdisciplinary, VR-focused coworking spaces and organizations that are coalescing across L.A., where the edges of the visualization, filmmaking, and architectural professions run into one another, like Virtual Reality Los Angeles, Navel.la, and RotoLab. With the recent announcement by computing giant Intel of a new collaboration with Microsoft aimed at developing VR capabilities for Windows-based machines and plans to open an L.A. research studio, the future of VR is here—and it’s very real.
A star is on the horizon: Situated roughly 30 miles north of Dallas, Frisco Independent School District (ISD), one of the fastest growing school districts in the U.S., is home to more than 54,000 students across 68 schools, with eight more schools planned to open before 2019.
To accommodate this rapid growth, Gensler designed a 25-acre complex comprising a 300,000-square-foot office building, 300-room hotel, and a 12,000-seat indoor stadium known as the Ford Center. Totaling $1.5 billion, the project is known officially as “The Star in Frisco” and is part of the area’s larger 91-acre mixed-use development.
Gensler’s scheme has been hotly anticipated by the local community. The Ford Center’s inaugural event, which saw four football games between teams from Frisco’s ISD on August 27, was sold out a week in advance.
Emblazoned with the Dallas Cowboys’ signature blue—conveniently similar to that of Ford’s—the indoor athletic facility will be used by the NFL team, the City of Frisco, and Frisco ISD’s eight high schools. With a clearance of 94 feet and offering football-shaped locker rooms to be used by both high schoolers and professional football players, it is the only NFL training facility in the country that is shared with the public.
Project architect and Gensler associate Scott Armstrong said that the venue was “always going to be indoors in order to provide flexibility,” and to create a “multi-use event space.” As a result, visitors can expect a vibrant atmosphere at events as sound reverberates around the space. Given the stadium’s parabolic roof, Armstrong also highlighted the extensive gutter system that spans the perimeter to capture water runoff.
Unlike most NFL and high school sports arenas, fans can enter the venue through the same side. “Everybody’s a home team here at this stadium,” principal at Gensler Ted Kollaja told the Dallas News. “We wanted to ceremonially bring them all through the front door together.”
Sitting in the middle of the 25-acre area, the Ford Center will be joined by offices and a “War Room” (a space for football tactics to be discussed) to its right, and an Omni Hotel, retail, and restaurant space to its left. Directly in front of the arena will be a public plaza, complete with a football field (one of three outdoor fields in the complex), which will bridge the surrounding typologies at a pedestrian level.
Present throughout Gensler’s project is the theme of openness. In the office complex, a five-story atrium connects the main lobby and entrance to the football field on the opposite side. Aligned with the 50-yard line, the feature provides what Armstrong described as the “wow factor” for the site while also emphasizing the notion of “walkability” within the general area.
The hotel, known as the “Omni Frisco Hotel” will boast a 13,000-square-foot ballroom, as well as 24,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The luxury hotel will also offer a rooftop pool deck with a bar and grill overlooking the open plaza and main entrance to the Ford Center.
The 25-acre development is due to be complete in fall 2017, though the Ford Center is currently up and running. As for the overall 91-acre scheme, Armstrong said that this “will phase into competition at various times throughout the next few years.”
This 100,000-square-foot, 14-story tower—the tallest realized by DS+R and one of the rare medical school facilities designed as an integral vertical structure—inevitably raises the question of how successfully DS+R has negotiated the jump to the larger scale and challenge of a Manhattan high-rise. Happily, nothing in the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, except perhaps the somewhat perfunctory lobby, misses a beat, from the circulation and separation of complex programs to the small footplate that eliminates long, alienating corridors and the soundproofing that admits city sounds while maintaining a welcome silence. The "study cascade" side of the tower evokes the "folded noodle" of DS+R’s unrealized Eyebeam design. But here, it is subject to a rigorous logic that is likely to establish the Vagelos Center as a textbook example of a much discussed design strategy, in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century, but not often realized in an effective and definitive form.
Gensler’s Los Angeles office has revealed plans for a $150 million expansion to the Port of Los Angeles by marine science and business innovation group AltaSea. Revealed plans detail a 280,000-square-foot facility encompassing a new waterfront promenade, aquaculture research center, and science hub that combines the existing dockside warehouses with a new visitor’s center and signal-house.
Three formerly industrial warehouse shells with exposed composite steel beams and original overhead trusses will house dedicated research and business development facilities for aquaculture and underwater robotics endeavors. The project’s development will be divided into phases beginning with the redevelopment of Warehouses 58 through 60, which will add 180,000 square feet of combined research and business hubs to the site. This phase also incorporates an education pavilion and wharf plaza. The second and third phases entail renovating Warehouse 57—which will contain 60,000 square feet of laboratory and classroom space—and the construction of the site’s two new structures.
Those new constructions, Berth 56 and a tower dubbed “the Viewing Structure,” are located between the arms of the two docks housing the science warehouse spaces. Berth 56 is a landscape-oriented community center with educational and exhibition spaces, as well as amenities like viewing platforms and a theater. The five-story viewing tower is located at the foot of a Berth 56’s roof terrace, which has been sculpted to blend with a street-level plaza.
Gensler expects to begin construction on the first phase of the project in 2016 with the community center set to open in 2023.