Design giant Perkins + Will has swallowed up Freelon Group Architects, one of the country’s most prominent African American–led firms. The firms announced Tuesday that North Carolina–based Phil Freelon will help lead Perkins + Will’s design efforts in the region and globally. The local head of the combined practice will have nearly 80 professionals, creating one of the largest architecture and design practices in North Carolina. Freelon started his firm in 1990, growing it from a single-person practice to 45 employees. P+W will combine 18 staff members at an office in Morrisville, NC with Freelon’s office in Durham, as well as a 15-person staff in Charlotte. Freelon Group is best known for its work on the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, which they designed with David Adjaye, Davis Brody Bond Aedas, and SmithGroup. The museum is targeting a 2015 opening. Freelon’s firm also worked on the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore, and the Atlanta Center for Civil and Human Rights. “There’s a sense that we’re contributing to society as a whole, and making people’s lives better through our buildings in my firm, and Perkins + Will—there’s a lot of public sector clients there,” Freelon told the Durham Herald-Sun’s Laura Oleniacz. “We feel good about creating design excellence and beauty for everyday people.”
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Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Charlotte, NC Through July 25, 2014 The architect Mario Botta is known for his postmodern or idiosyncratic country houses, churches, and institutional buildings in the Ticino region of Switzerland and Europe. He actually worked in the studio of Le Corbusier as a young man and his work is clearly indebted to Carlo Scarpa and, like many Italian architects of his generation, Louis Kahn. He has workedthroughout his career in a small regional outpost of Lugano and has stood against the mainstream of modern, commercial and avant-garde ideas and trends and produced buildings that can only be called "Bottan." In 2005, he told Guardian writer Jonathan Glancy that architecture "is a way of resisting the loss of identity, a way of resisting the banalisation, the flattening of culture brought about by the consumerism so typical of modern society. In this sense, architecture is more an ethical than an aesthetic phenomenon." Botta has described his own buildings as "post-antique" in an attempt to step outside of postmodernism. His singular approach and style can be seen in San Francisco where he designed the SFMOMA in 1994, a commission he won in a competition that included Frank Gehry. In 2010, Botta completed a second American project, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Museum has just opened Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory, an exhibition on the Swiss architect's career. There are more than 200 objects on view in the gallery including letters and sketches by architects and others who have influenced Botta. Included in this "Encounters" section are artworks from the Bechtler collection created by artists who have inspired Botta such as Alberto Giacometti, Jean Tinguely, Alexander Calder, and Pablo Picasso.
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Amuneal Manufacturing fabricates a “breathing” sculpture for a North Carolina plaza.For a public plaza in downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina, landscape architecture firm Mikyoung Kim Design designed a unique sculptural installation that doubles as a stormwater management system. The 70-foot linear form is centrally located to engage the town’s residents with a looped, 10-minute light show. A misting sequence, drawn from a subgrade cistern, emanates through the perforated metal skin of the sculpture, giving the impression that “Exhale” is actually a living, breathing object. The original concept for the piece incorporated hydrological elements of the site in an engaging and transparent way, but the form was less defined. Over the course of nine months, designer Mikyoung Kim said her team designed countless rock-like shapes from clay, carving each from the inside out to achieve a thin, amorphous shape that consistently collapsed in on itself. Then, one night at home, Kim had a breakthrough when her idling hands picked up a few sheets of trace paper in the early morning hours. “I started folding a piece of trace paper and kept folding, and folding,” she recalled. “It was yellow and easy and beautiful; I fell in love with that.” The sheets also helped Kim balance her aim for delicacy with function and helped define Exhale’s fan-like corrugation. Through a series of quarter-scale mockups and Rhino drawings, the team worked to refine the size of the sculpture’s perforations, a process Kim likened to “squinting to make it clearer.” There are more perforations on the top than on the bottom, giving the impression of a sturdy base with a lighter feeling above. Another challenge came in integrating the corrugated, perforated surface with a support structure. Parametric scripting helped Kim dictate where the perforations would fall in relation to the framing elements. Kim turned to long-time collaborator Amuneal Manufacturing to fabricate the design. Amuneal converted the drawing from Kim’s Rhino files to Solid Edge. Those files were used to laser cut the sheet’s trapezoidal geometry and perforations from marine-grade stainless steel sheets. Amuneal’s CEO, Adam Kamens, estimated that almost 50 sheets where welded together to create the final form. Radial corrugations were folded on a CNC press brake. Because Exhale was designed for a plaza that wasn’t perfectly flat, Amuneal executed as much pre-assembly in its Philadelphia facility as possible. Sheets as large as the bed of a truck were craned into place and welded together on site. Abrasive finishing smoothed over seams and connections. The curved, stainless steel sheets conceal an internal misting tube that releases vapor through a high-pressure spray, as well as color-changing LEDs. Kim’s favorite part of the design experience was watching public reception of her work, which was unveiled on a warm day in late spring. “The combination of all the elements created a reaction from Chapel Hill that was a pleasure to watch,” she told AN. “I watched kids engaging it immediately and it made all of the hard work worthwhile.”
In the business-oriented district of Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, LandDesign landscape architects and Seattle-based artist, Norie Sato, have collaborated on the design of a new 5.4-acre park inspired by the life and work of native artist, Romare Bearden. The Charlotte Observer reported that the public space located in Third Ward will serve as a venue for concerts and cultural events in effort to revitalize the area’s currently dull after-work scene. Scheduled for a grand three-day opening this upcoming Labor Day weekend, Romare Bearden Park includes open greens, gardens, courtyards, a play area, and water features within its conceptual inspiration. Bounded by MLK Jr. Boulevard, Mint, Church, and Fourth streets, the park stands in an area once home exclusively to industrial offices and gravel lots. However, since the Charlotte City Center Partners began the 2020 Vision Plan for growth and development of the city, it has now taken on a more mixed-use identity. Nearby are the Bank of America Stadium, the Federal Courthouse, and the BB&T Ballpark. Romare Bearden, an internationally-renowned twentieth-century visual artist, lived in the immediate area during his childhood in Charlotte. Although the new park’s design is not meant as a memorial, Sato and LandDesign have incorporated elements within it that evoke his artistic work and life. In a conceptual theme of "Burden and Memory," the designers hope Romare Bearden Park induces visitors to entertain thoughts inspired by Bearden: from the Paris Memory courtyard, prompted by his influential time spent in Paris, to the Memory Walk along Church Street constructed of colorful pavement reminiscent of his artworks. The park was originally set to open mid-June; but the completion was postponed due to weather delays. The three-day roster of events includes concerts, children’s activities, and artistic occasions. Mecklenberg Parks and Recreation Director Jim Garges told the Charlotte Observer that last week, about 90 percent of the landscaping and the paved work had been completed and that construction is on schedule. He was confident in the park’s ability to bolster interest in the area, “People aren’t laughing anymore about uptown. It’s become the place to be.”
After a long, cold winter, many of us are itching to lock away our wool coats, slip into our flip-flops, and dash to the beach. That's especially the case for Matt Tomasulo, the artist behind the Raleigh Beach proposal that would transform the corner of West Hargett Street into an alluring summertime oasis in inland North Carolina. His Raleigh Beach rendering depicts sunbathers soaking up the sun while lying on the sand as swimmers cool-off in the pools. Tomasulo, who is also the founder of CityFabrics, a company that prints figure-ground city maps on t-shirts, wallets, and more, daringly printed and posted a large rendering on his Raleigh Beach proposal on a fence at the vacant lot in Raleigh just outside of downtown, later splashing the scene online on the proposal's Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook pages where it attracted hundreds of followers and received both positive and negative reactions from the community. This isn't the first time Tomasulo has stirred things up—in a good way—in Raleigh. The designer was also responsible for last year's Walk Raleigh "guerilla way-finding" movement, in which he and a small group of students posted 27 colorful signs on three street corners in Raleigh that stated how long it would take to walk from one destination to the other. His goal was to promote a healthier community by encouraging people to do more walking. The campaign successfully generated discussion about walking in Raleigh and attracted the attention of over 23 cities who wanted to bring the movement to their own city, leading Tomasulo to launch the Walk [Your City] website. Small-scale interventions like the Walk Raleigh campaign are part of a growing trend toward Tactical Urbanism to transform American cities. This time, though, Tomasulo confessed that his Raleigh Beach concept is fake and that the proposed scene would not be coming to Raleigh this summer, despite bold letters on the sign stating, "Coming this summer!" But with enough support, one day it could. His aim was to pique the community’s interests, start a conversation about the transformation of the empty, unused downtown lot, and encourage people to think about the best way for it to serve the community. If he can rally enough support for the project Tomasulo might be able to convince the property owner, 607 West Morgan Street, to transform his city-beach rendering into a reality. After all, urban beaches like this aren't unprecedented. Paris has famously shipped tons of sand and palm trees onto the banks of the Seine in the summer for its Paris Plage program. The French city—which has been ahead of its time on other urban interventions like a High Line style park, the Promenade Plantée, that predates New York's wildly popular example—announced last year the Paris Plage could become a completely car-free waterfront. Paris Plages 2012 en panoramique by mairiedeparis
A folded canopy reinvents a former loading dock in the city’s historic Depot DistrictRaleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum chose its new home in the city’s Depot District carefully. Located in a former produce warehouse, the project calls attention to the city’s history of railroad transportation and red brick architecture while emphasizing its commitment to sustainability and adaptive reuse. Led by Brooks + Scarpa Architects, the project included renovation of the existing 21,000-square-foot structure and the addition of a 900-square-foot entry pavilion. The glass-enclosed lobby reinterprets the location of the original building’s loading dock with an expanded and folded canopy that announces the building’s new purpose and balances the effect of daylight on its interiors. The architects saw an opportunity to treat the new museum entrance as a modern loading dock, a front porch that would deliver visitors into the galleries within. They began to experiment with the form of the rectilinear metal roof that originally sheltered the truck bay, expanding it and imposing a series of three folds to bend the shape skyward. The team developed a perforation pattern that shades the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden and the floor-to-ceiling glass lobby enclosure, then grows more dense to hide ductwork and sprinkler pipes indoors. Derived from the shape of flower petals, the pattern consists of three half-oval shapes with radii of 2, 4, and 6 inches. Each petal was combined with one other shape with the same radii, creating a total of 18 ovals in the pattern. These were laid out to create areas of greater or lesser density depending on the desired shading effect. While the perforated petals have 35 percent transparency, gaps between the ovals create an overall effect of 50 percent transparency indoors and 65 percent outdoors. The design team delivered shop drawings and sketches based on screen shots of Rhino files to architectural metal fabricators at Chicago-based Accurate Perforating and North Carolina-based Alumiworks. (The canopy’s top surface is composed of Polygal polycarbonate panels fabricated by North Carolina-based Jacob’s Glass.) Because the canopy’s interior slope does not match the exterior slope, transferring the complex geometry of the canopy into both top steel elevations at the intersections and into the bottom of the hollow structural section (HSS) steel substructure supporting the petal panels proved challenging. The canopy is built with steel wide flange beams, some of which are tapered and supported by the unreinforced masonry building and by three structural columns. Outdoors, perforated panels are attached to the underside of the frame and protected by polycarbonate panels installed overhead. Indoors, the perforated panels are installed beneath metal decking, insulation, and PVC roofing material. An HSS substructure suspended from the steel beams supports each assembly. While the canopy has become a symbol of the historic district’s renewal, not all visitors are welcome to its modern-day front porch. One-quarter-inch mesh between each petal shape keeps birds from roosting on flanges and steel beam supports. While the mesh allows pleasant North Carolina sunlight to filter into the museum’s courtyard, the glimpses of blue sky are also a nod to another bit of Southern porch culture—natives traditionally paint porch ceilings blue to mimic the sky, deterring mud dauber wasps from settling in.