High performance and cultural relevance meet in concrete, metal, and steel mesh envelope.For the stakeholders involved in building the new Rev. Avery C. Alexander Academic Research Hospital (also known as University Medical Center, or UMC) in downtown New Orleans, the project was about much more than replacing facilities damaged during Hurricane Katrina. "The grander story is the effort to rebuild New Orleans," recalled NBBJ principal Jose Sama. "There was a lot of emotional attachment to the original hospital, Charity Hospital, and also—rightly so—the pride the community has for the character of the city. Everyone wanted to make sure the project was going to be something that was of New Orleans." In a joint venture with Blitch Knevel Architects, NBBJ rose to the challenge with a design that subtly reflects the city's cultural heritage. The building envelope, a combination of precast concrete, metal panels, high performance glazing, and stainless steel mesh, contributed significantly to both the project's aesthetic aspirations and its performance goals. The overarching concept for UMC, explained Sama, was to "create a performance in place." For the architects, "performance" holds a double meaning. "Performance is embedded in [New Orleans] culture, but this is a more high-level sense of performance," said Sama. "Place," in turn, draws on the city's climate and character. "We looked at various clues in the urban environment and how those could affect the design," said Sama, recalling visits to the hospital's Canal Street neighborhood and the French Quarter. Then, of course, there are the environmental threats made all too clear by the Katrina experience. "We completed [the design] with the understanding that we had to create an envelope that could withstand hurricane-force winds and missile impact," said Sama. "That was an important piece of selecting the glass and the curtain wall system." In fact, most of the damage sustained by Charity Hospital was the result of flooding rather than high winds. As a result, the architects faced a mandate to elevate all critical hospital functions above 22 feet. "We envisioned this as a floating hospital," said Sama. "The notion was that the more public zones, the softer spaces like dining, registration, and the lobbies, would occur at the ground level. Then you move up to an elevated plane of critical services. That way they could function regardless of flooding." The building envelope reflects this programmatic move: The first floor of the central campus structure—the diagnostic and treatment center—is wrapped in a transparent curtain wall with a strong emphasis on the horizontal while the upper, critical floors feature a precast concrete facade. The two other project components, the medical office building and the inpatient towers, offer variations on the theme. The former is clad in an insulated metal panel system, the latter in precast concrete, glass, and stainless steel mesh. A number of subtle gestures connect the hospital exterior to New Orleans' history and culture. One thing Sama noticed on his site visits was that "the notion of the garden is important, and the notion of getting outdoors." With that in mind, the architects created a central entry pavilion "designed such that you have a very pronounced sense of entry created by a porch, or a projecting eave—it almost has the effect of a trellis," said Sama. They also created informal gardens wherever possible. The signature garden, nestled between the towers and the diagnostic center, is water-based, and imagines the seating areas as lily pads floating on a pond. "The idea that here in the middle of New Orleans you find a water-intensive garden was really critical," said Sama. The patient towers, too, embody a strong connection to the outdoors via balconies for patients and staff. Metal scrims in Cambridge Architectural's Mid-Balance architectural mesh simultaneously provide aesthetic interest and fall protection. "We studied what we could do with the scrim," said Sama. "We think we picked just the right scale. It's appropriate for someone sitting on the balcony, but also for someone walking by." The mesh panels produce a "soft veil effect," he observed. "In the morning light, it glistens. The intent was to create a memory of Mardi Gras beads, in terms of color and glistening. People will pick up on that different times of day." Cambridge Architectural contributed to several other elements of the project. Mesh fins in the Scale pattern are attached with a custom cable tensioning system to the upper levels of the patient towers, to provide solar shading. On the parking garage portion, designed by Blitz Knevel Architects, 86 panels of Scale mesh again add both visual impact and fall protection without compromising ventilation. On the south elevation of the garage leading to the UMC helipad, a custom-built shade mesh fin system cuts solar gain and glare. Many of the references embedded in the new UMC hospital—the way in which the towers' orientations recall traditional New Orleans shotgun houses, or the connection between the stainless steel mesh and Mardi Gras beads—are so understated as to operate on almost a subliminal level. But like the city itself, the building comes alive at night, finally, and literally, revealing its true colors. "The building from the outside is very neutral," explained Sama. But thanks to accent colors on the inpatient tower stairs, revealed through translucent glass, plus accent lighting on the bulkheads above, after dark the towers shine, he explained. "The whole point was that at night they would glow with color from within."
Posts tagged with "Hurricane Katrina":
The New & Old in New Orleans: Ten years after Katrina, architects still figuring out how to rebuild housing in the city
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast region, inundating New Orleans with contaminated floodwaters, the city is in some ways still getting back on its feet. After much dispute on how to recover the city, architects and developers are looking to new construction and existing building stock for solutions. Many homes in the Crescent City were washed away or irreparably damaged. One of the most predominant home styles damaged in the storm was the so-called shotgun house, named as such due to its elongated style organized around a long corridor stretching the length of the house. That typology is has been deployed by numerous groups in the past decade to rebuild New Orleans. Developers and architects have been snagging headlines rebuilding what was lost. Most notably, Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, has built over 100 homes in the city, many by top name architects and more still with modern designs that reinterpret the city's historic shotgun house. Make It Right has lately been building "tiny houses," a style of housing meant for people on a small budget subscribing to a fast-paced, out-of-home lifestyle that's fitting for the urban environment. This fast growing contemporary style has its benefits:
- Storage space is limited, so there is a lower propensity to over consume and due to the size of the plot.
- The building is relatively simple and easy to maintain (a chore no city dweller wants to labor over).
Earlier this month, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, an international design competition that is hoping to attract fresh strategies for reusing the many vacant lots that dot New Orleans. The competition is seeking submissions from landscape designers, architects, planners, public policy wonks, and pretty much anybody in the business of shaping urban environments and is supported by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), which owns more than 2,000 vacant lots. There are somewhere around 30,000 empty lots and abandoned structures throughout New Orleans today, most of them left by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city in 2005. As the 10-year anniversary of the storm approaches, Future Ground is looking to create design and policy strategies capable of adapting to changes in density, demand, climate, and landscape in New Orleans over the next half-century in an effort to turn these abandoned landscapes into lasting resources. NORA is currently working with New Orleans–based landscape architecture firm Spackman Mossop Michaels to develop land use strategies to reduce maintenance on many of its vacant lots. The firm's principals, Elizabeth Mossop and Wes Michaels—along with Richard Campanella of Tulane University, Renia Ehrenfeucht and Marla Nelson of the University of New Orleans, and Allison Plyer of The Data Center—are serving on the competition's Futures Team. "Some of this land might not be developed for a long time. It's important that the teams we select are not just looking at solutions for now, but for 10, 20, 50 years from now," said Jerome Chou, director of competitions, Van Alen Institute. "They need to be flexible, accommodate future needs, changes in the climate, and shifting development pressures. That's what the Futures Team is going to help us do. They will be working on potential scenarios of how the city might change over the next half century. It's obviously not set in stone, but thinking through those scenarios can help us tell residents, government officials, and philanthropists 'here's what's possible.'" Winning teams will be selected from an international open RFQ process. Applications are due by September 29, 2014, and will be evaluated by a jury of local design and policy leaders, as well as representatives of other cities with land reuse problems of their own, including Dan Kinkead of Detroit Future City, and Terry Schwartz of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. Each winning team will be given a $15,000 stipend and will be asked to work closely in a six-month collaborative process with local stakeholders and national leaders. The goal is to bring small, incremental improvements to individual neighborhoods as well as the city as a whole; to develop policy that bolsters beneficial design strategies; and to make these strategies good enough to be sustained into the next generation. The Van Alen Institute will help out the selected teams to make up for the modest figure of the stipend by promoting their work nationally and internationally and developing networks.
The houses built by Brad Pitt's charitable organization, Make it Right, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are already in need of refurbishing. The foundation is part of an effort to restore New Orleans' 9th Ward through the construction of 150 architect-designed homes featuring modern design, but the timber used on the exteriors of many of the homes is proving no match for the area's moisture and is beginning to rot. The charity has said it will work with their provider TimberSIL to solve the problems with the rapidly decaying wood. Pitt founded Make it Right to offer green sustainable architectural contributions to New Orlean's recovery efforts. The actor called upon prominent figures within the Los Angeles architectural scene—Frank Gehry, Hitoshi Abe, Thom Mayne, and Lawrence Scarpa among others—to create affordable houses to be installed in the neighborhood of the city hardest-hit by the storm. Shigeru Ban and David Adjaye have also contributed designs to the foundation. In 2009 he met with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi to discuss his efforts in New Orleans and sustainable housing policy. The charity is another step in the actor's ongoing and well-publicized flirtation with architecture. It is also not the first time one of his ambitious undertakings in the field has hit a bit of a stumbling block. Developed with affordability in mind, it seems unlikely that any of the Make it Right homes will feature pieces from the actor's 2012 furniture collection "priced at the highest end of the custom-furnishing scale."
New York–based conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll will debut her newest project, PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0, at New Orleans' contemporary art biennial, Prospect.3 in Fall 2014. In it, she identifies communities across New Orleans that remain choked for resources since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005. Responding foremost to the lack of connectivity in these areas, Carroll is utilizing unoccupied TV channels, cultural motifs, and an innovative wireless technology developed at Rice University in Houston, Texas, to create infrastructure that will become a permanent characteristic of The Crescent City. PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0 will consist of two broadband Internet broadcast towers built in sections of the city that will then connect to hubs. The locations of the hubs will be distributed throughout greater New Orleans based on crowd sourcing. By using Internet broadcast towers, Carroll hopes to reimagine traditional city planning by prioritizing what she calls “the elevation plan and broadcast spectrum.” In doing so, physical location will have little correlation with lack of connectivity of under-resourced communities. A key motivator of PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0 is its potential impact on a national policy debate about the scheduled auction of airwaves for wireless broadband in 2014 by the Federal Communications Commission. Carroll compares the government selling the unused television spectrum to selling public land. The technology that empowers PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0 is in the developmental stages in Rice University’s Wireless Network Group, led by professor Edward Knightly. The group is experimenting with launching residential broadband Internet service through “TV white space” or TVWS. The service will function like a WiFi hotspot, though it differs in that TVWS emits “lower-frequency TV signals [that] penetrate walls and propagate over distances, meaning it can serve a larger population. The latest TVWS technology released by Knightly’s team earlier this week is estimated to reach a range of about 1 1/4 miles. Carroll hopes PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0 will reach beyond New Orleans to become a template that other U.S. cities can utilize. She envisions the broadcast towers becoming cultural symbols similar to Moscow’s Shukhov Tower, LA’s Watts Tower, or the RKO transmitter. “The towers would be the visible presence in the city, and the connections they provide would create a cultural, economic, and social platform for greater New Orleans,” she said.
On the heels of the Saints' victory, the Big Easy had another big win this week, this time in the form of a $474.8 million FEMA payment. But preservationists have been dealt a major blow in their fight to save 70-year-old Charity Hospital in New Orleans, along with a tract of historic homes and structures in the city’s Mid-City district. For the past four years, Louisiana state officials have been at loggerheads with FEMA over the extent of Hurricane Katrina’s damages to Charity, which has been shuttered since the storm. On Wednesday, a federal arbitration panel ordered FEMA to pay nearly all of the requested replacement costs for the state-owned hospital. The ruling was a triumph for city and state officials who argued that Charity was more than 50 percent damaged by the hurricane and therefore eligible for replacement, instead of repair. As AN reported in July 2009, the decision was seen as vital to advancing a Mid-City biomedical development plan that would place the new Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital (already funded by Congress) alongside a new LSU medical center to be built with state funds, revenue bonds, and FEMA’s compensation for Charity, formerly the school’s teaching hospital. Preservationists argued that the plan would destroy the iconic art deco hospital and a slew of historic structures, and pushed their ideas for an all-out retrofit of the building. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who applauded the panel’s decision, said $40 million in Community Block Grant money has already been set aside to find a new use for Charity—but with the National Trust still disputing the Mid-City development plans on environmental grounds, New Orleans is far from getting the medical care it needs.