Throughout history, many great works of architecture both large and small have been made possible only through incredible feats of engineering and construction. In today’s world—where office and residential towers reach ever-increasing heights, new cities appear in an instant, and stringent safety and structural requirements make building arduous and time-consuming—architects must draw on their experience and know-how to bring innovative new projects to life. Three recent projects by American architecture firms highlight the lengths designers can go (and heights they can achieve) in pursuit of great design. Seattle Space Needle Olson Kundig The Space Needle in Seattle is a superlative building through and through. Built in 1962, the flying saucer-shaped observation tower was recently renovated by Olson Kundig and a daring team of contractors and engineers, including Hoffman Construction, Arup, Fives Lund, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates. To achieve their goal of modernizing the structure, the project team had to work delicately to make sure the weight of added and subtracted materials balanced out, while also ensuring that the majority of the new components could be transported up the needle’s two passenger elevators. Beyond these exacting specifications, crews also dealt with a job site located some 500 feet up in the air as they worked to install new panes of glass around the Space Needle’s flying saucer-shaped Top House. For the project, Hoffman and associated contractors erected a giant covered platform directly underneath the Top House to stage construction activities. The massive structure was lifted into the sky and built out from key hoist points, according to Bob Vincent, project manager at Hoffman. The platform, designed to function more or less like an oil rig deck, was used to stage construction so that workers could access the Space Needle’s Top House from below. The stage created something akin to a massive cocoon around the base of the Top House, and its associated enclosure kept workers protected from the elements. Vincent said, “With the full enclosure, the workers weren’t freezing and materials didn’t fly around too much. It kept wind and elements out, too. When we were done with the project, we dismantled the ring by bringing in all the components from the edges toward the middle.” Embassy in Chad Moore Ruble Yudell Architects A new American embassy campus in N’Djamena, Chad, by Santa Monica, California–based Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY) posed a different set of construction and site limitations. Located in a remote region of the country with a small pool of skilled labor, it fell on the design team to create a state-of-the-art building that could be constructed using locally available materials and building techniques. The approach for the technically complex and decidedly low-tech project was to blend simple finishes and off-the-shelf components with the aim of creating lively but humble buildings. The complex was erected using site-poured concrete walls and modular roof pieces, elements that helped meet the strict security and functional requirements for the embassy. The cementitious walls were then wrapped in exterior rainscreen paneling made up of thin-shell concrete and metal latticework. The lightweight panels, available in standard sizes that could be shipped easily to the site, were chosen to add color and patterning to the pragmatic buildings. In certain areas, including between the main lobby and the cafe, lightweight canopies were strung to create shaded outdoor areas and to collect rainwater. A new, centralized energy plant connected to solar panel arrays was also included in the off-the-grid project. Alexander Residence Mark English Architects While working on extensive renovations to an existing five-story cliffside home in the San Francisco Bay, Mark English Architects (MEA) was only able to deliver construction materials and remove debris via floating barge. With the closest road nearly 200 feet away from the waterfront home and accessible only by steep stairs and a cable car funicular, the design and construction team had to rent several barges to undertake the project. Located on the bayside face of Sausalito, MEA’s Alexander Residence is conceived of as a getaway spot for a client with an extensive art and furniture collection. For the renovation, MEA and GFDS Engineers worked to open up the 1970s-era home by removing some of the unnecessary interior partitions that marked its original pinwheel design. Along the lowest level, for example, facing the house’s private dock, a closed-off bedroom and living area were combined to create a studio apartment. Farther up, a home office, living room, and kitchen were united to form a great room–style arrangement with an elevated dining room, pass-through kitchen, and living area oriented around multimillion-dollar views of downtown San Francisco, Angel Island, and Alcatraz. “We rebuilt the house from inside out,” principal Mark English explained. “Everything we demoed, including the roofing, old doors and windows, and drywall, had to go out through the dock by barge.” The same was true for all of the replacement materials coming in, including new lengths of structural steel that were added for seismic resiliency and to transfer loads over some of the new window openings. For these elements, the contractors added a crane to the barge that was then used to lift the steel beams into place. English added, “We talked to two or three builders before settling on Landmark Builders. The others would inevitably bring up how difficult and expensive it would be to do this project. Luckily, we eventually found someone who thought it would be interesting to take on this out-of-the-ordinary project.”
Posts tagged with "Moore Ruble Yudell":
When the Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, and Whitaker Architects-designed University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Faculty Club opened in 1968, architectural historian and critic David Gebhard wrote in Forum that the complex was “theatrical (like Hollywood) and planned, even though on the surface everything appears haphazard and disjoined.” The compliment applies in opposite to the recently-completed $11.25 million renovation, restoration, and expansion to the complex by Charles Moore’s successor firm Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY), where a series of rationally-organized dining facilities, hotel accommodations, and administrative offices conceal nuanced and rich architectural detail. The complex was originally designed as an homage to the era’s Pop Architecture phenomenon that blended Spanish Colonial Revival stylings with a 1960s penchant for dumb shacks and postwar vernacular modernism. Though from the outside, the building originally appeared as a stuccoed mass of disjointed shapes, Moore and Turnbull’s original vision was decked out inside with soaring framed archways, criss-crossing mezzanine walks and stairways, and neon signs and symbols decorating its walls. The project’s showpiece, a central, multi-story dining room, contained all of these elements and more, including deep-cut architectural references to other famous works—like a sloped entry reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard—that were amplified and repurposed throughout the UCSB Lagoon-adjacent complex. Today, the expanded club boasts a wholly new 15,760-square-foot wing hosting 34 guest rooms wrapped by perimeter circulation, as well as a renovated and restored central dining hall and a bevy of new sustainability features. Overall, the building has more than doubled in size from 14,595 square feet to over 30,000 square feet today, an effort that has overtaken but not necessarily overshadowed the existing PoMo gem. MRY has taken a gradient-driven approach to the project by restoring the easternmost two-thirds of the original building while also adaptively reusing the remainder of the existing complex and adding the new wing on the building’s west side. The upgraded dining room—dialed down in terms of its furnishings and place settings from the 1960s version, as one might imagine—is more spare than before. Gone are the expanses of wall-to-wall red carpeting, Mid-Century Modern-styled dining chairs, and glass-topped dining tables and their frilly, folded napkin arrangements, which have been replaced with more paired-down and contemporary elements. Many other aspects of the existing building have been retrofitted for contemporary times as well, including the building’s windows, which have been replaced with energy-efficient panes. The complex boasts passive design features that facilitte matural ventilation throughout. Added too are new sensitive lighting designs that allow for task-level lighting control in the hotel rooms, as well as new ambient lighting in the dining areas that compliments the large glass light fixtures already inhabiting the space. Perhaps the most unique elements of the complex come in at ceiling height, where many areas feature drop-down roof rafters that evoke the vigas of the Spanish Revival as well as the slap-dash 2x10 ceiling joists of the Mid-Century vernacular, as well. These elements are complemented in the hotel rooms and in the building’s many shared areas by peculiar ceiling geometries that result from the building’s heaped architectural forms. Everywhere rooms and entire wings explode askew to the structural grid, with massive octagonal arches doing the work of keeping the building standing, as sloping ceilings, pop-out window walls, skylights, and transom openings combine to create delightful ceiling geometries. Overall, the architects have proven that it is possible to respect and embrace history—even what might be considered by some today as an over-wrought PoMo relic—while also building for the future. In Santa Barbara, PoMo isn’t “back,” and it’s certainly not dead—It’s been here and will continue to remain.
Studio Visit subject Moore Ruble Yudell is the legacy firm of architectural master Charles Moore, who founded the company more than thirty years ago with John Ruble and Buzz Yudell. Many of Moore's architectural priorities are encapsulated in a unique community of oceanside homes he helped design, Sea Ranch, which just celebrated its fifty year anniversary. Celebrations of Sea Ranch's birthday wind down over Memorial Day with a concert by the Kronos Quartet. Last fall AN contributor Kenneth Caldwell attended The Once and Future Sea Ranch, a one-day symposium on the community's history and future. Below are his notes. When you hit middle age, it’s time for another checkup, and if you are a group of affluent nature-loving Northern Californian neighbors, perhaps a check-in. Residents of Sea Ranch, a second home community stretched out along 10 miles of the Sonoma coast north of San Francisco, have been holding a number of events to celebrate its 50th birthday. On October 18, there was a day-long symposium to look at how history might influence the future. The goal of this confab was to generate new ideas about the next 50 years of Sea Ranch’s existence. Led by former UC Berkeley Art Museum curator Jacquelynn Baas and original Sea Ranch architect and retired UC Berkeley professor Donlyn Lyndon, the presentations ranged over several topics but eventually seemed to coalesce around a few key ones. It’s Really About the Landscape Lyndon, who has served on the Sea Ranch design committee, now chairs the landscape committee, and has designed several homes since the community’s founding. What he understands better than most is that what matters at Sea Ranch is not so much the widely published architecture, but the landscape. The point of the intense design review process was to try and prevent design from interfering too much with the place. This has been a central attraction and source of conflict for 50 years. Lyndon presented an overview of the community and its development. One of Lyndon’s main points is that much of the mature landscape that you experience there was planted when Sea Ranch was first developed. Now it has to be managed prudently to cut down on invasive species, protect views, and most importantly, prevent fires. This reinforces a basic idea: other than the ocean, man made Sea Ranch. Lyndon then turned the floor over to design professionals who are not part of the Sea Ranch scene. As a central steward of this now historic locale, he knew that he needed new voices to generate new ideas. Nature Shaped by and for Humans The presentations revealed a core conflict, which goes back to the Sea Ranch’s semi-utopian beginnings. The emerging values of ecology and living in harmony with nature that took root in the early 1960s are not in harmony with the free market. Both Lyndon and UC Berkeley landscape architecture professor Linda Jewell explained the thinking of landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who brought a romantic notion about a kibbutz-like community where everybody would share the common meadows and build modest cabins up against the beautiful hedgerows. The phrase was “live lightly on the land.” This dreamy if affluent hippiedom was best captured in Architectural Record editor Cathleen McGuigan’s presentation on how the East Coast viewed the development. She featured several rarely seen images of dancer Anna Halprin, wife of the visionary, leading diaphanous dances at the shore. While Lawrence Halprin and his team of scientists went to great lengths to study the ecology and create a self-effacing community, it was still a development idea that would tame nature for man’s pleasure. The environmental movement caught on and, as Lyndon describes in his recently revised book on the topic, eventually threatened the existence of the community. The voters also got ecology fever and passed the Coastal Initiative in 1972, which provided public access to the state’s beaches. For several years, multiple government agencies were entangled in litigation with Sea Ranch over beach access for members of the public who might want to dance there as well. Sea Ranch wasn’t so communal after all. When the court cases were settled, the original developers, part of Hawaii giant Castle & Cooke, wanted out. The result was that the northern part of the ranch was not developed according to Halprin’s original site-sensitive vision. Some folks say that there are essentially two Sea Ranches: the tasteful, quiet southern part and the suburban golf-playing northern sector. In his presentation and comments, California College of the Arts professor of visual studies Mitchell Schwarzer pointed out that the unbuilt environment at Sea Ranch that we so cherish is an illusion that depended on global and technological advances and was created by excellent design. It didn’t just grow there. He was able to contextualize the place as a resort community that focused on contemplation more than any specific activity. We Are Not Getting Any Younger There were other miscalculations besides the popularity of the early environmental movement. The drive from the Bay Area lengthened over the many years since Sea Ranch's inception, with increased development through Marin County and Santa Rosa. Often the journey takes three long hours filled with curves, and short weekends up the coast are not really viable. There is no way to get there but to drive—or fly, if you have your own small plane. And no way to get around once you do get there except by car. The demographic is tilting Sea Ranch towards becoming a retirement village without the usual retirement amenities. Most of the full-time residents are over 60 years old. By 2020, it is estimated that the number will be 80 percent. The few hundred gathered for the event only supported those numbers. This presents a challenge in terms of social and medical needs. How does an aging community renew itself? As one resident pointed out during the Q+A, “Pray for a heart attack and that you drop dead.” Lack of Public Gathering Spaces Although there are three recreational complexes and a golf course, there is no informal gathering place in Sea Ranch, no town square. There is a small bakery tucked away on the hill that serves as a de facto hub, but there’s nothing that was planned. If the lodge expands, as has been rumored for several years, that might be an opportunity for creating some kind of intentional hangout space with opportunities for a few retail services. However, given that there is an empty retail building up on the ridge near the airport, is there enough demand to accommodate additional commerce? Schwarzer’s presentation went a long way to explain this lack of a hangout place. For the most part people go there to be alone or in small groups. What is the Nature of Preserving This Nature? As the slides showed, the natural environment is vastly different from what it was 50 years ago. Lyndon mentioned that the hedgerows, which separated different sheep fields, have matured and block more wind, as do the new plantings. As former UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design dean Harrison Fraker (and others) pointed out, Sea Ranch isn’t a sustainable community. Although Halprin’s original vision called for greater density, it is, like so much of California, essentially a single-family car-oriented cul-de-sac community. Several people also talked about the lack of a coherent bike trail system. There were lots of suggestions about landmarking the place, creating a cultural center, and densifying the remaining undeveloped plots. Perhaps the most inventive idea came LA Times architecture critic Chris Hawthorne, who suggested reviving the Case Study House program at Sea Ranch. But it’s pretty clear from the response that the homeowners don’t want significant change. The most reasonable suggestion presented was for studying in depth the demographics (which the census does only once a decade) and studying in depth the plant and animal life, much as Halprin tried to do when he first came to the site in the early 1960s. Noted Southwest architect Will Bruder offered up lots of ideas including one concrete suggestion that seemed to have some resonance: create a summer institute for students. Although Halprin and Esherick were established professionals in the early 1960s, it was the young bucks at Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker (MLTW) that gave the place that odd twist of self-effacing drama at their condo complex, so the idea seems appropriate. The empty retail building near the airport, designed by William Turnbull, could serve as the base for such an annual gathering of the next generation of talent. In an offhand comment, Lyndon said that original developer Al Boeke knew of Ed Barnes’s famous Haystack School in Maine and that its architectural forms and materials were not unknown to the early designers. Maybe a kind of Haystack that focused on the ecology of the Northern Sonoma/Mendocino coast would work here? Or planned sustainable communities, or even the creation of a more sustainable community at Sea Ranch? It seems unlikely that a group of entitled design students would be interested in doing research for the benefit of a group of well-to-do nature and design enthusiasts. But if the mandate were slightly larger, such as how to evolve the original place-making and environmental ideals of Halprin, Esherick, and MLTW, that might work. There are challenges for the area beyond creating gathering places, meeting seniors’ needs, and overseeing the ever-changing natural environment. They include affordable housing, adjacent timberlands, and strengthening Sea Ranch’s relationship to the small town just across the county line that provides most of the services and retail operations. There is a room for change here, but even with the input of leading thinkers, it won’t be dramatic. But as with the original place itself, a dash of youthful genius could move it forward for the next 50 years.
A tight budget and short timeline inspired an innovative concrete and terra cotta facade.BNIM and Moore Ruble Yudell approached the design of the Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Missouri-Kansas City with two objectives. The first was to express the creative spirit of the university’s program in entrepreneurship, which at that point lacked dedicated support spaces. The second goal was to tie the contemporary structure to its historic surroundings. Moore Ruble Yudell, who developed many of the project’s interior concepts, tackled the former, creating flexible classroom and laboratory spaces and a multi-story amphitheater that doubles as casual seating and a venue for school-wide gatherings. As for the latter, BNIM designed a multicolored terra cotta envelope that balances singularity with connection. “The idea was to create a building that sat by itself, but somehow bring it into context in terms of materials,” explained BNIM senior project architect Greg Sheldon. Because so much of the existing campus architecture featured masonry construction, the architects “had a desire to use a fired earth material, but to try to do it in a more contemporary way,” said Sheldon. Inspired by a project in London that combined different colors of terra cotta to blend it into its surroundings, BNIM began working with architectural terra cotta manufacturer NBK to design a rain screen for Bloch Hall. But budget and time constraints soon intervened. To cut costs and enclose the building as quickly as possible, BNIM approached Enterprise Precast Concrete about the possibility of casting the terra cotta components directly into insulated concrete panels. “There was a lot of back and forth between Enterprise Precast Concrete and NBK,” said Sheldon. “This was one of the very early projects to use this technique.” To further streamline construction, BNIM and Moore Ruble Yudell decided to integrate the concrete into the interior aesthetic, so that the inside face of the panels required no additional finishing beyond sandblasting. General contractors JE Dunn Construction “loved that if we could pull this off, the insulation’s in place and the inside’s finished,” said Sheldon. “They bring it out, put it on the building, and that’s it.” For glazing, the design-build team ordered a YCW 750 XT high performance curtain wall from YKK, sized to slot into the opening between the building’s masonry components. Together, the insulated concrete-terra cotta panels and high performance glass helped put the building on track to earn LEED Gold certification. The patterns in the terra cotta “weren’t accidental, but were studied and studied,” said Sheldon. The south end of the building is a deep red, like the adjacent Bloch School Building. To the north, the colors fade to a buff yellow, reflecting the lighter tones of the nearby student center. To perfect the patterning, the designers first looked at the range of colors available through NBK and chose the six most compatible with the surrounding buildings. They then unfolded the elevation of the building and plugged the different shades into their digital model. BNIM experimented with different combinations, printing each and pinning it to the wall before making adjustments. “I don’t know how many iterations they did,” said Sheldon. “It just went on and on.” The final scheme achieves the desired effect. In color and materials, it creates a dialogue with the older buildings around it. Yet the bold patterning simultaneously marks the facade as a 21st century creation. Upon receiving the $32 million gift from Henry W. Bloch that made building the new Bloch Hall possible, then-Dean Teng-Kee Tan observed that “the path of innovation is never a straight line.” The architects manifested the analogy in the building's architecture and landscaping, carving the interior into a series of curvilinear spaces, and connecting the building to its neighbors via a meandering path. But the statement applies equally to the design process itself, in which a tight budget and 14-month construction timeline encouraged an innovative combination of concrete, terra cotta, and high performance glass. A successful sublimation of limitations into opportunity, the story of Bloch Hall’s envelope is the story of entrepreneurship in microcosm.
[Researchers have also turned drones into builders, here laying bricks for a parametric tower.] Look up in the sky: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, it’s a drone. Yes, the U.S. military isn’t having all the fun… Architects are now getting into the drone game as well. In order to get a better look at their sites—particularly views from higher elevations—word has it that firms like AC Martin and Moore Ruble Yudell have developed their own drones, hovering high in the clouds and rotating in all directions. Air traffic rules for these sorts of things are still rudimentary, so flyers need to take things like etiquette and safety into their own hands. But for now it’s the Wild West. And it’s a virtual thrill that more may be taking off soon.