Posts tagged with "Marlon Blackwell":
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At a party for Marlon Blackwell in honor of his Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award, Peter Eisenman introduced the Fayetteville-based architect and asked him, rather stupidly, “When are you going to get out of Arkansas and come to New York?” The Architect's Newspaper thinks it is great that Blackwell is thriving outside the coastal echo-chambers, and we are excited to see what the future has in store for Blackwell and his cronies from the Natural State.
University of Arkansas addition celebrates the future with a contemporary rewrite of Neoclassicism.As head of the architecture department and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell was uniquely qualified to oversee the renovation and expansion of the school's home, Vol Walker Hall. To unite the school's landscape architecture, architecture, and interior design departments under one roof for the first time, Blackwell's eponymous firm designed a contemporary west wing to mirror the east bar on the existing Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the 1930s as the university library. But the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—which tied for Building of the Year in AN's 2014 Best of Design Awards—is more than a container for 37,000 square feet of new studio, seminar, and office space. It is also a teaching tool, a lesson in the evolution of architectural technology writ in concrete, limestone, glass, steel, and zinc. "Our strategy was to create a counterweight to the existing building," explained Blackwell. Rather than a layered steel-frame construction, Marlon Blackwell Architect opted for a post-tensioned concrete structure to convey a sense of mass and volume. "We also wanted to demonstrate what you can do with new technology like post-tensioned concrete, such as introducing a cantilever and introducing a profile that has minimal columns in the spaces," he said. "All of that is a didactic tool for our students to contrast and compare with the load-bearing technology of the existing structure." The exterior of the Steven L. Anderson Design Center also reflects on changes to architectural practice during the last 80 years. "We really wanted to develop a strong profile of the building, in contrast to Vol Walker Hall," said Blackwell. He describes the effect as a figure-ground reversal: where in the older structure the mass of the building is the ground and the windows and ornament act as figure, in the new wing the mass is the figure and the fenestration the ground. To create what Blackwell terms a "condition of resonance" between the Design Center and Vol Walker Hall, the architects engaged Clarkson Consulting to develop an architectural concrete to match the color of a local Arkansas limestone no longer available. They echoed the Indiana limestone on the older wing with panels sourced from a quarry only 50 miles from the original. But instead of grouting the limestone cladding on the new wing, Blackwell chose a limestone rain screen system from Stone Panels. "That allows us to go much thinner but much larger," he said. "Again, we're using the same materials but showing how the advancement of technology allows for a different expression of architecture." The defining feature of the Design Center is the more than 200-foot-long glass and steel curtain wall on the western facade. Knowing that the western exposure would provide the only source of natural light for the new wing, the architects worked to balance the need for light against the threat of solar gain. To complement the existing building, they chose a fascia steel curtain wall custom-fabricated by local company L&L Metal Fabrication. With curtain wall consultants Heitmann & Associates, Blackwell developed a brise soleil comprising 3/4-inch by 18-inch frit glass fins, angled to filter sunlight into the Design Center's 43-foot-deep studios. "What we like about it, too, is that it's one big window," said Blackwell. "It allows it to feel as if we've cut a section right through the building. At night the entire facade becomes a beacon, allowing for a nice interface between the school of architecture and the rest of the community." Other details, including the monolithic concrete pours designed to lighten the Design Center's connection to the ground, and zinc cladding used on the top floor to sharpen the profile of the main body, continue the dialogue between the new structure and its Neoclassical neighbor. "There are a lot of little things that give a tautness to the expression of the new addition, and give it its own identity," said Blackwell. "But at the same time, one of the things we were faithful to was trying to analyze and uncover units of measure and proportion on the old building, and apply that to ours." Perhaps more importantly, the building works as a design school—and Blackwell would know. "There's certainly contrast on the outside," he said. "But there's an almost resonant seamlessness on the inside."
Marlon Blackwell uses ribbed ceiling to evoke craft while mitigating contemporary challenges at Arkansas museum.The setting for the gift shop at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art seems idyllic—a vast glass wall opens onto a entry courtyard that gives way to a placid pond reflecting the Ozarks landscape. But to create a design for the 3,100 square-foot space in Bentonville, Arkansas, architect Marlon Blackwell had to overcome multiple hurdles. The first: a thicket of concrete columns supporting the green roof of the Moshe Safdie-designed building. Next: the west-facing glass wall, which made heat gain an issue. And finally: the very small budget (the total project cost was $644,000). Blackwell’s solution to all three problems was a concept inspired in part by local Arkansas basket weaver Leon Niehues, whose work is now sold in the museum shop. Niehues’ pieces are distinguished by their vertical “ribs.” The wrapper of rib-like forms devised by Blackwell begins at the top of the exterior glass wall, where it acts as a sunscreen, and extends across the ceiling and down the long eastern interior wall where shelving is integrated into the system. Made of locally sourced cherry plywood, the final effect is less wicker-work and more chanterelle—Blackwell’s ribs, which span roughly 30 feet, evoke the gills on the underside of a mushroom cap. But the arc-shaped plan of the building complicated matters. “It was a curved volume, so we couldn’t reference a radius,” said Blackwell. “We used straight lines, which looks great but demanded that each rib had to be slightly different.” Each of the 223 undulating ribs is composed of up to four segments of joined planks 8 inches wide and 3/4-inches thick. Using 3-D modeling and AlphaCAM CAD/CAM software, Blackwell’s team translated the design to CNC routers in the millwork shop of Adam Weaver at UDI Inc, in Rogers, Arkansas. Weaver deployed two routers at once to stay on deadline—an Onsrud CNC and a Northwood CNC—and an optimizer insured that there was as little wasted material as possible. From 480 sheets of plywood emerged the 700 cut pieces for the ribs, each inscribed with a number and with the screw holes and the overlapping joins pre-cut. Once the material was delivered to the site, the contractors used a plum line and a laser to align then suspend components from the ceiling. The ribs gradually took shape one piece at a time. “It was like stacking stone,” said Blackwell, noting that everything snapped into place in under six weeks during construction in 2011. The rib system filters out up to 40 percent of the daylight and not only finesses the existing concrete columns but also conceals sprinklers and the store’s lighting system. Blackwell use of cherry planks for the floor creates a unified and warm space that complements the wares on display for only $200 per square foot.