Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects have released renderings today of the Yale-NUS campus which has begun construction in Singapore. The new institution, offering a four-year liberal arts curriculum to one thousand students, is a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore. To design the new campus, the architects have taken the distinct cultural backgrounds of the founding institutions as a reference for the design of the campus. Within the limitations of Singapore’s wet and humid climate and the environmental standards of the “Green Mark”-the country’s standard for assessing sustainable design-the firm has incorporated architectural elements to make a very strong and apparent comparison between the parent schools. Residential colleges with “butteries” as well as representation’s of Yale’s gates reference the institution while “five-foot ways” and skygardens are ancient and modern references to Singapore. The comparison between the two founding universities is also taken more broadly as a conversation between East and West. The building holding the library, called the “Learning Commons” is set on a hill, the “pinnacle of knowledge,” a reference to the Parthenon where Athena, the goddess of wisdom, would sit. The outside of the Commons is the Angora, continuing the reference. Southeast Asian textiles are referenced in exterior metalwork as well as in interior ornament.
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Amidst the event saturated month of Archtober and the holiday hubbub that followed, the Center for Architecture's fall show, Buildings = Energy, got a bit lost in the shuffle. But there's still time to check it out through January 12. Earlier this month Margaret O. Castillo took AN on a tour of the exhibit, the last under her tenure as AIANY chapter president. The show drives home several green points that Castillo has been hammering at all year, primarily the fact that buildings consume energy--a lot of it. Eighty percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and in New York City alone they use 94 percent of the power. The exhibit takes a holistic approach focusing on the amount of energy needed to extract and make materials, to the energy used to build, and the energy consumed by the completed structure. The story begins in the front window with calculations of how much oil it takes to produce a typical building material. Suspended from the ceiling are aluminum, cinder blocks, lumber, bricks, and sheetrock. Each material has a barrel ring floating around it with figures printed on them, such as: "1 gallon of oil = 3.33 CU. FT. of hardwood." The calculation includes the energy to fell the tree, transport it, and cut it to size. The Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, ARUP, and Dattner Architects lent their expertise to arrive at the various figures found throughout the exhibit, lending the heft of real world numbers to the theoretical aspects of the show. The main theoretical voice comes from Perkins+Will in a section of the exhibit called One Building = Many Choices. Through a series of renderings the firm explores key factors from building concept to completion that include: Site Choices, Program Choices, Passive Systems Choices, Active Systems Choices, Materials Choices, Construction Choices, Operational Choices. Each section is deserving of in depth analysis, but the Passive System attracted our attention because of the design of the building's envelope, about which the team from Perkins+Will had the luxury of dreaming big without a client screaming "How much?!" Thus an elaborate customized photovoltaic facade zigzags down the face of the building. It may cost upfront, but the returns are obvious. “I’m imagining the day when buildings will produce energy, not use energy,” said Castillo. Anthony Fieldman, design principal at P+W, noted that the curtain wall is "the only membrane between you and an uncontrolled environment. So if you use it intelligently you can temper nature's forces before they become problems you have to deal with in the interior." Fieldman added that the geometry of the facade was designed to maximize light, minimize solar heat gain, and maximize energy though the PVs. The photovoltaic facade drew questions of customized photovoltaics vs. mass produced ones. To which Castillo argues that architects should be pushing for the industry to create more choice. "We should be pushing for better looking photovoltaics, instead of just the flat black photovoltaics on the roof," she said. Elsewhere in the exhibit, plenty of real world projects illustrate the show's values. An air circulation animation produced by Buro Happold Consulting Engineers of Pelli Clark Pelli's Transbay Center in San Francisco demonstrates both passive and active systems working together for temperature control and air flow (see below). A model of City College's entry for the Solar Decathlon, the so-called Rooftop Pod, is also on display. And there are several examples of adaptive reuse, including a project that Castillo worked on with Helpern Architects for Columbia's Knox Hall. To avoid rooftop disruption, the school drilled 1,800 feet into the ground for geothermal heating and cooling. It all adds up to a message that Castillo delivers with nearly evangelical fervor: "If we can reduce the energy use in buildings you wouldn’t have to build new power plants, we wouldn't need transmission lines that are loosing electricity. It we got rid of fossil fuels, we wouldn’t be shipping it around the world, we wouldn’t be polluting the gulf with oil spills. So much could be solved at building level if we really concentrated."
Microsol Resources' Tuesday night presentation of Z Printers at Cooper Union was notable for scale of output, both small and large (very large). The 3-D printers produce a powder-based model where all unused excess material gets recycled within the machine. The copier makes tiny models with extraordinary precision. The prices run from $15,000 to $65,000. But a panel of four presenters said the printer's primary advantage is speed, allowing for new models to be created within 24 hours. Two firms made notable presentations. Xavier De Kestelier, an associate partner at Foster + Partners, veered from the script a bit when he showed a video of a cement printer being developed at Loughborough University in the UK. That hanger sized 3-D printer makes modular units that can be adapted as building components. Then, Wesley Wright, a designer with Pelli Clarke Pelli, brought the conversation back to the Z Printer, which he said has become an integral part of the firm's design process. The firm has four machines operating round the clock. Sketching right onto the models during the review process is not uncommon. In a video, no less than the maestro himself, César Pelli, intones on the importance of model making in general and on 3-D printers in particular. Wright has graciously, and exclusively, shared his video with AN. We nabbed the Foster/Loughborough video from YouTube. (Scroll down for the videos!) Pelli on Models from Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo.
The battle for Midtown Manhattan has taken a new twist. Radio broadcasters located in the nearby Empire State Building have raised concerns that Vornado Realty Trust's proposed 15 Penn Plaza will swat their signals from the sky. Standing at over 1,200 feet tall, broadcasters worry the Pelli Clark Pelli designed 15 Penn Plaza could reflect or disrupt radio frequencies, causing a phenomenon known as multipath where multiple waves are sent to the same signal. Radio World reports that experts have been watching the proposed tower closely as it was recently given a thumbs up after a contentious approval process in which Empire owner Tony Malkin argued 15 Penn Plaza would diminish from the historic significance of his building. From Radio World:
"Vornado officials have not indicated an interest in building rooftop broadcast facilities atop the new tower, according to observers. "The Empire State Building is home to 19 FM stations and most of the city’s digital television transmitters. Many radio and television broadcasters migrated there after the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (see sidebar). "Multipath issues are nothing new in the city because of its monstrously tall buildings, but the proximity of the skyscraper to the Empire State Building — approximately a quarter-mile — raises a red flag for some in the broadcast community."
UPDATE: Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in whose district the project is located, gave her strong support for it at a press conference before today's meeting of the City Council. More below. The battle for the soul of New York—or at least for its skyline—was over before it even really began. The City Council Land Use Committee just voted in favor of Vornado's roughly 1,200-foot, Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed 15 Penn Plaza, apparently unswayed by complaints from the owner of the Empire State Building, Anthony Malkin, that it would ruin views of his iconic tower, and thus the city as a whole. In fact, the issue of the skyline barely even came up, and when it did, the council members, who voted 19-1 for the tower, essentially said New York must build to remain great. "I think it's a project the city needs," said Councilman Daniel Holleran, a Staten Island Republican. The bigger issue, by far, than the dueling towers was that of who would build 15 Penn Plaza, namely MWBEs. That's the policy shorthand for women- and minority-owned business enterprises. The council, like the city, is majority minority, and so ensuring employment for minorities, particularly in the notoriously cosseted construction industry is often a high priority. When Vornado showed up at Monday's hearings without a specific plan for how it would ensure a portion of the contractors on the project would be MWBEs, the committee members were displeased. Council
woman Letitia James Albert Vann asked if the company even had any sort of minority hiring practices, to which the head of the New York Office, David Greenbaum, joked that he was not sure but had had a party recently at which there were many women, and his wife asked which were employs and which were spouses and he said, with a chuckle, that it was more of the former. James was not amused.
Vornado proffered a last minute MWBE plan before today's vote, calling for at least 15 percent of all construction work to be done by MWBEs. Whether the project would have been torpedoed without it is hard to say, but it did little to assuage council members complaints at the same time they overwhelmingly voted for the project. James Saunders, one of the council's lions on MWBE issues, made his frustration known. "This is a tepid response to a need, a very tepid response," he said of the new MWBE plan. "We can't go on like this. That we even have to have this discussion shows that there needs to be some real dialogue here." Holleran expressed disappointment that the council does not use its limited leverage over such projects to extract more concessions early on than at the very end, when development projects have essentially reached the stage of fait accompli.
Not that it would have mattered if there was any real opposition, as the mayor cast his considerable weight behind the project yesterday, according to the Wall Street Journal [sub. req.].
"I don't understand that. You know, anybody that builds a building in New York City changes its skyline. We don't have to run around to every other owner and apologize," he said. "This is something that's great for this city." "Competition's a wonderful thing. One guy owns a building. He'd like to have it be the only tall building," he added. "I'm sorry that's not the real world, nor should it be."Malkin was not at today's vote. And perhaps its was with good reason that the council did not take up his position. As our colleague Eliot Brown points out over at the Observer, the skyline fight is not that disimilar to the one over the Ground Zero "Mosque," in that it's a supremely local issue that has been given over to if not irrational than at least emotional pleas for something locals could care less about. After all, we're only ruining the view from Jersey. Yet again, the debate surrounding this project was only nominally about the project at hand. UPDATE: When we asked Speaker Quinn about the merits of such a large, even overbuilt project—it's 42 percent larger than current zoning allows, going from a 12 FAR to an 18 (though mind you the Empire State Building is a whopping 35, so who's dwarfing whom exactly?)—she said she was fine with it. "I think given that this is 34th Street, 33rd Street, and 7th Avenue, one of the most commercial areas in the city of New York, this is an appropriate place for dense development." (The project is actually located between 33rd Street and 32nd Street.) Quinn even went so far as to compare the unbuilt 15 Penn Plaza to many of the city's other iconic office towers, calling it a modern day Rockefeller Center, something the city needs more of. "Our position is about Midtown business district expanding into the 21st Century," Quinn said. "As it is, we're not on par with some of our competitors, say London or Hong Kong. In the middle of this recession, what this say is New York is coming out of this, and coming out on top." Quinn said that she was happy with the MWBE agreement that had been reached with Vornado while also stressing that such matters were not technically under the purvey of the city's land-use review process. When we asked if they should be, Quinn demurred. On a less demure note, Curbed is reporting that the real reason Malkin is so opposed to 15 Penn Plaza is because it's potentially throwing off the feng shui of his tower, killing the "life force" of the Empire State Building and thus a deal with a business from Hong Kong to lease space in the tower. And now we've heard everything.
Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gave his approval to 15 Penn Plaza, a nearly 1,200-square-foot tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli and proposed for a site across from Penn Station. The approval was conditional, as usually happens when a borough president puts the stamp on a land-use project, but what was surprising, perhaps, is that the size or scale of the building were not addressed. As we reported last month, the proposed project is 42.5 percent larger than current zoning allows, one of the chief reasons the local community board opposed the building 36-1, deeming the project too big. Such outsizing is usually a gripe for borough presidents, as well, but that was not the case here, as Stringer took issue with impacts on the open space, transportation, construction, and sidewalks, all of which are impacted by the projects size, though that itself was never an issue. This one, it appears, is all about mitigation and not reduction. That said, this is Midtown—a common refrain in support of the pre-shrunken MoMA tower, to which Stringer did object more strenuously—so maybe this fits after all.
Turns out the vociferous opponents to a Beale Street station in San Francisco had it right. The California High Speed Rail Authority voted last week not to build an underground station at Beale Street to serve as the northern endpoint of the state's future high-speed rail line. Instead, the bullet train will make its final stop in the Transbay Terminal that is already slated to be built in downtown San Francisco. The Beale Street station plan had met with months of protest by San Franciscans, including a strongly worded petition from South Beach residents last year. Among their complaints: The Beale Street option would have required the demolition of several residential high-rises; its construction would have endangered the base of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; it would have cost over $1 billion to acquire the right-of-way; it was being pushed for political reasons by unidentified special interests; and it flouted the wishes of San Franciscans, who voted in 2008 for Proposition 1A, which specified the Transbay Terminal as the endpoint of the high-speed line. The California High Speed Rail Authority was convinced, voting 6-1 last Thursday in favor of Transbay over Beale. The $4 billion Transbay terminal is being designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, who published some dramatic renderings in 2007 showing a rooftop park, retail street, and attached skyscraper. A gamble in 2009 paid off when the team revised their plans and won a $170 million loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, speeding up California's high-speed dreams.