Posts tagged with "Precast Concrete":

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This winery holds its own with a self-supporting limestone facade

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With a wine-producing history stretching back three millennia to Greek colonization in the 6th century B.C., the French region of Provence is nearly synonymous with viticulture. Winemaker Les Domaine Ott Chateau de Selle has called the region home since 1912 and last year completed a full-scale revamp of its facilities by Paris-based Carl Fredrik Svenstedt Architect (CFSA) featuring a facade of self-supporting one-ton blocks of local stone. The 47,000-square-foot winery is partially nestled into the hillside, rising from a stepped concrete foundation. The two primary elevations of the structure run adjacent to each other, with that to the east following a gentle curve. Each stone block of the facade is approximately 3 square feet in area and 1.5 feet in height, stacked to reach a total height of nearly 33 feet. Each stone block weighs approximately a ton, allowing for the insertion of certain load-bearing elements into the blocks for interior slabs and beams.
  • Facade Manufacturer Carrier De Provence Poggia Provence
  • Architects Carl Fredrik Svenstedt Architect
  • Facade Installer Printemps de la Pierre
  • Location Taradeau, Provence, France
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Self-supporting limestone facade with a concrete core
  • Products La Pierre du Pont-du-Gard limestone Soleal Evolution Technal aluminum window frames
The arrangement of the self-supporting stone blocks dilates and contorts according to interior function; the central body housing dozens of stainless steel and wooden wine barrels must be guarded from UV rays, while gaps in the imposing elevations crop towards the north and south for office spaces and screened courtyards. For French vineyards, the concept of terroir, or the unique qualities of local mineral and environmental conditions, is directly credited for the final palette of each vintage. For CFSA, it was imperative that the design of the new winery similarly reflect the surrounding geography. To this effect, the design team procured the beige limestone blocks from quarrier Carrières de Provence who source from local a limestone quarry dating back from the Roman era. The large-grain stone, known as La Pierre du Pont-du-Gard, was first roughly harvested from the quarry and subsequently fashioned in an on-site workshop with diamond disc rotors. “Using stone quarried nearby was coherent for the insertion of such a large building into the landscape,” says Carl Fredrik Svenstedt, “at the same time the stone has fantastic thermal properties for a winery in a hot climate, with great mass inertia and hygrometry, while also being very accessible financially.” Following fabrication, the stone blocks were transported 125 miles from Carrier de Provence's facilities to the construction site and craned into position atop the perimeter of the concrete shell. Joinery of the blocks was fairly straightforward: they are held together by gravity and mortar. Since Provence is located in an active seismic zone, CFSA added two key elements to boost earthquake resistance: every sixteen feet, the stone piers were hollowed to facilitate the insertion of a vertical concrete pier directly to the foundation, while strategically placed pins are used to the same effect for areas with significant openings. Similar to historic wineries that rely on a system of vaults to allow for flexible interior floor plans, the great halls of the facility are supported by a system of precast concrete beams and columns. CFSA relied on rebar and infill concrete between limestone columns and the core to tie the stone and concrete elements into a cohesive structural system.
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GRT Architects has designed a bold interpretation of classical details in tile

GRT Architects, a Brooklyn-based firm founded by Rustam-Marc Mehta and Tal Schori, has developed a classically inspired cladding template dubbed “Flutes and Reeds.” The off-the-shelf product is designed as a modular system of triangular concrete tiles that are arranged in varying increments and grid formats—imagine Gio Ponti’s midcentury Blu Ponti ceramic tiles with protruding elements. If the tiles are set in a conventional manner, they resemble the relative formality of Greco-Roman column detailing over an expansive triangular matrix. According to GRT Architects, “Greek columns can be thought of as modules or tiles in a way. Their proportions have fixed rules; there are options for surface embellishments, base and top details. From that small set of instructions comes literally centuries of architecture—from the most austere to the playful acts of virtuosity.” In effect, this straightforward classical detailing can serve as plug-and-play components for contemporary design. The tiles, as a result of their standardized size, can be rotated and arranged to create unique patterns or erratic islands across surfaces. In total, GRT Architects has designed more than two dozen tile variations for four standard patterns: Single Flute, Triple Flute, Single Reed, and Double Reed. Over the last half year, GRT Architects has collaborated with Kaza Concrete—a Hungarian concrete manufacturer specializing in bespoke accent walls—to debut the product at both the Clerkenwell and Milan Design weeks. Kaza uses a mixture consisting of fiber-reinforced concrete, marble powder, and a broad range of powdered pigments. The mixture is subsequently poured into a cast to imprint detailing and harden. In both circumstances, Kaza Concrete assembled, designed, and fabricated the installations to highlight the possible layouts of GRT’s panels as well as the materiality of the manufacturer’s polished concrete. Notably, Kaza Concrete’s installation for the Milan Design Week was fashioned to resemble the base of a monumental column, laid out with a wildly irregular and fractured surface treatment. Flutes and Reeds has been on the market since June, and it is currently being incorporated into GRT Architects' design of a family home and studio in Duchess County and the renovation of a rectory in New York’s Harlem neighborhood.
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An Estonian office block receives a splash of color with an aluminum mesh facade

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Estonia-based architectural practice molumba has enlivened a suburban office block with a unique concrete and aluminum screen assembly. The project was commissioned by AS Elering—the nation’s largest transmission systems operator for electricity and natural gas—as a dramatic, three-fold expansion of the preexisting structure in Mustamäe, a southwestern neighborhood in the nation’s capital of Tallinn.
  • Facade Manufacturer Metal-Disain Oü (metal sheets), Talot AS (concrete panels), JU-Metall Oü
  • Architects molumba, Eeoo Stuudio Oü (interior)
  • Facade Installer Oma Ehitaja
  • Facade Consultants Novarc
  • Location Tallinn, Estonia
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Steel frame with prefabricated concrete panels and metal sheets
  • Products Metal-Disain Oü PW keevisrest
Over 140 turquoise mesh piers ring and visually buttress each elevation, a play on historical castellation and Gothic design found throughout Tallinn’s Old Town. The piers are built of full-length aluminum strips measuring 12 to 41 feet, which are in turn welded to a series of connecting bars. Each pier possesses its own steel support structure consisting of two internal, vertical columns fastened to the welded connecting bars. The design of the complex references the spindly and bundled power line, a ubiquitous feature across urban landscapes. AS Elering operates a multi-acre electrical substation next door. According to design lead Karli Luik, molumba envisioned the project as “the brain of the electricity and gas transmission network, monitoring and administrating their vitally important circulation.” As a vitally important aspect of Estonia’s energy infrastructure, the entire 40,000 square-foot complex is ringed by a perimeter wall fashioned of the same turquoise aluminum screen. For molumba, the bigger question was how to give the mesh triangles a truly functional quality outside of their aesthetic elements. The two planes of the piers form an acute isosceles triangle: the two congruent sides measure just under four feet while the base is approximately three feet. This shorter edge is placed atop the building’s 20 by 10 foot black precast concrete panels and wedged between window openings. With a 41-degree circumcenter angle, the piers function as effective passive sun shades for office functions within. Additionally, the mesh frame serves as an industrially-produced lattice screen for future vegetative growth to coil up the facade. The interior, designed by Stuudio Oü, features a design that similarly echoes the building's utilitarian function. Spiraling stairwells, built of concrete and steel, vertically course through the east and west elevations of the headquarters, while exposed pipes, cables, and pendant lamps made of recycled insulators line the ceiling and walls. A central vegetated courtyard and a two-story, wood-paneled stairwell, with steps of varying size, are the office block's principal communal areas. At the core of it all lies the "Brain," where the nation's energy transmission network is surveilled through a hippodrome of monitors.
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Steven Holl's Glassell School of Art is clad with 178 unique precast panels

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Earlier this year, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) opened the new Glassell School of Art, the nation’s only museum-affiliated art school serving pre-K through postgraduate students. The Steven Holl Architects-designed project is the first building in a 14-acre development that will reshape the museum’s campus. It joins other buildings on the campus designed by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Rafael Moneo, and Carlos Jimenez. The design has an L-shaped plan with a sloping, walkable roofline running the length of the building.
 
  • Facade Manufacturer Gate Precast Company (precast concrete panels), Admiral Glass Company (glazing)
  • Architects Steven Holl Architects, Kendall Heaton Associates (associate architect)
  • Facade Installer Gate Precast Company (precast concrete panels), Admiral Glass Company (glazing)
  • Facade Consultants Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering
  • Location Houston
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Structural precast concrete panels, insulated glazing unit
  • Products Gate Precast Company precast concrete panels, Cristacruva IGU with Guardian SN 62/34 sunguard on Guardian clear glass, Kawneer zero sightline vents
The facade of the Glassell School consists of monumental precast concrete panels tied together with cast-in-place concrete plank beams with glazed infill panels between. There are 178 unique precast panel shapes. They all reference the same 11-degree angle seen in the slope of the roof. This shows up with variations in each panel to create the facade’s unique look. Originally, the project team designed a system of only precast panels, but this created challenging connection details, so they opted for cast-in-place beams to connect the panels. These beams were cast with vertically-projected rebar that each precast panel mounted onto. The panels were fitted with sleeves at the base and the top to receive the rebar from the beams. This required a great amount of precision in the fabrication of the panels to align the sleeves with the rebar. It took immense coordination between the architects, the concrete contractor casting the beams, and the precast fabricator, Gate Precast Company. The architects, along with the client, chose to cast the concrete using a color that references the Indiana limestone used in the surrounding buildings on the campus. The cast-in-place beams were cast in a similar white concrete to match the precast concrete as closely as possible. The interior of the building is mostly art studios, which called for indirect daylighting. Steven Holl Architects delivered this through the use of two different glazing systems integrated within the facade. Alternating between the precast concrete structure there are expansive insulated glazing units (IGUs) with a translucent polyvinyl butyral (PVB) interlayer. This assembly was designed to mitigate solar gain and save energy while allowing the interior to be fully illuminated. The translucent glass also creates a glowing effect for the building's exterior at night. In addition to the IGUs, each studio space has a small three-foot-by-three-foot operable vent with clear glazing that allows for an exterior view.
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Historic Louisville architecture gets a sleek new look by de Leon & Primmer

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The Owsley Brown II History Center is just one part of a unified campus expansion for The Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky. Located in the historic neighborhood of Old Louisville, the project reinterprets the surrounding Italianate architecture in a contemporary way. de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop (DPAW) played with proportionality, depth, and layering of materials to achieve this.
 
  • Facade Manufacturer Sioux City (brick), Sentry Steel, Inc. (prefinished metal cornice), Old Castle (glass curtain walls), Trulite Glass and Aluminum Systems (frameless glass wall), Hieb Concrete Products Inc. (precast concrete)
  • Architects de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop
  • Facade Installer Realm Construction Company, Wehr Constructors (concrete)
  • Facade Consultants de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop
  • Location Louisville, KY
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Brick veneer, glass curtain wall, frameless glass wall, precast concrete fins
  • Products Sioux City Architectural Brick, prefinished metal cornice custom fabrication by Sentry Steel, Inc., Old Castle Series 3000 Storefront System (east and west wings), Old Castle Reliance Curtain Wall System (entry curtain wall, upper lecture hall northwest curtain wall, and south-facing fritted glass curtain wall), Trulite frameless glass wall (atrium), precast colored concrete fins manufactured by Hieb Concrete Products Inc.
The building’s massing is composed of two equal volumes on the east and west of a central atrium. Both volumes are of the same height and footprint of the houses in the neighborhood. Each portion is clad with brick veneer and glass curtain wall, while the atrium facade is a frameless glass wall. A custom-fabricated metal cornice reminiscent of the Italianate-style caps the whole building. DPAW detailed the two brick volumes based on the programmatic needs of the interior. The east portion of the building contains the archives and has an expansive north-facing glass curtain wall that allows for ample indirect daylight. On the west,  the facade articulates the fenestration with smaller openings and encloses two stacked event halls. The horizontal panel joints on the brick veneer continue the elevation lines from the surrounding context and recede as the building increases in height. At most of the curtain wall, DPAW included curved precast concrete fins on either side of the openings. The color and striation of the concrete matches the adjacent brick paneling. These fins express the flatness of construction of brick veneer and contrast the load-bearing masonry walls of the surrounding brick buildings. The atrium between the east and west volumes is a continuation of the exterior plaza leading up to the entry of the building. A frameless glass wall with spider fittings and glass fins clads the space, opening up the facade to an unimpeded view of the monumental wood-slat stairs in the interior. Drawing inspiration again from the surrounding buildings, DPAW detailed this stair as a contemporary interpretation of the older, elaborate wood staircases. Due to its historic nature, the neighborhood’s residents met the project with initial backlash. DPAW coordinated with the city’s Landmark Commission on the design and detailing of the facade. They worked to ensure that it fit within the historic context without being a faux imitation of the existing architecture. Furthermore, the project team worked with the builders and contractors to push the envelope of standard construction and detailing to arrive at their clean facade.
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edg creates customizable 3D-printed concrete molds

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A different conversation about the capabilities of 3D-printing is happening at edg, a New York architecture and engineering firm which focuses on technology-driven design and the restoration of buildings. For the past five years, edg has been engaged with research into the combination of 3D-printing technologies and methods of casting in concrete.
 
  • Facade Manufacturer VoxelJet, XunDa (3D printing manufacturers)
  • Architects edg Architecture | Engineering team: John Meyer, Jonathan Shea, Steven Tsai, Richard Unterthiner, Phillip Weller , Maggie Zhang, Yujing Nico Cu
  • Facade Installer edg Architecture | Engineering
  • Facade Consultants VoxelJet, XunDa (3D printing manufacturers)
  • Location New York City
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Cast concrete with 1/16” wire mesh reinforcement
  • Products Sika concrete ornamentation cast in custom 3D printed formwork
Inspired by the initial buzz surrounding 3D-printing within architecture, Founding and Managing Partner John Meyer and his team began prototyping with a small MakerBot Replicator Z18. The desire was to move the conversation beyond small, fragile parts and into real-world implications of methods in additive manufacturing. Rather than focusing on solid 3D-printed parts, which are usually expensive but aren’t durable or aesthetically pleasing, edg’s research team began investigating the potential of 3D-printing as a method of complex concrete mold-making. The research implications were amplified once edg understood how to apply it. When it learned of the impending demolition of 574 Fifth Avenue, a 1940 building with intricate ornamentation, edg turned the project into a case study, a perfect prompt for thinking of alternative ways to restore and maintain deteriorating ornamentation. Conducting its fabrication work on a rooftop near its New York office, edg exhaustively explored materials and mold thicknesses until the team arrived at what it considered to be the right combination of material cost efficiency and strength. As seen in the firm’s prototypes and its diagram of the assembly, the 3D-printed plastic form is inlaid with a laser cut wire mesh as well as stirrups to provide reinforcement for the cast. Edg also designed a simple plate connection system which is formed into the printed area to facilitate easy attachment to the facade. The final prototypes were manufactured by VoxelJet using their VoxelJet VX1000 printer for the casting molds and were fabricated in-house with Sika concrete. This project has far-reaching implications for historic preservation, but this research isn’t nostalgia for lost fabrication techniques: it has broader possibilities within facade construction and design. As edg stated in a press release, designers are allowed to “shape and ‘mold’ building elements in unprecedented detail.”
edg plans to move forward with this technique through two projects in the works.  The first is a multi-family project in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, pictured in renderings [TK - above/below]. These projects will apply the same methodology but through a more contemporary lens. “This technique allows for more textures, finishes, flowing shapes, and unique patterning which you can only get when you're not paying for a precast form,” Meyer told AN. To complete this and other projects, he and his team are building a customized 3-D printer suited for their size and material constraints. Furthermore, edg is planning a design competition for the potential uses of this technique on architectural facades, in part to open up the facade design process to professions beyond architecture.
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Precast concrete and plaster find coherence in Cedar City Southern Utah Museum of Art

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“When you look around the building, it’s more about what you don’t see than what you do,” Larry Scarpa, founding partner of Brooks + Scarpa, said of the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) in Cedar City, Utah. The museum has no back facade and as such, the traditional mechanical requirements were approached intentionally to create the appearance of a smooth, unbroken surface. Located within the facade are many seamless concealed doors, masking the mechanical requirements. One precast panel on the east facade, facing the sculpture garden, swings out to reveal the mechanical room behind it. All of the lights in the plaster soffit are trim-less and appear more as apertures than additive elements.
 
  • Facade Manufacturer TAKTL (concrete panels), BASWA (acoustic plaster), Harper Precast (precast concrete)
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa (Design Architect), Blalock & Partners Architectural Design Studio (Local Architect)
  • Facade Installer Southam and Associates (concrete panels), Houghton Plaster (acoustic plaster)
  • Facade Consultants Van Boerum and Frank Associates (building envelope consultant)
  • Location Cedar City, Utah
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Concrete panel wall system, acoustic plaster soffit
  • Products TAKTL Architectural Ultra High Performance Concrete, BASWA acoustic sound absorbing plaster
The nearby sandstone landscape inspired the architecture, where the primary gesture of the roof echoes the geometry of a slot canyon. Brooks + Scarpa used this natural formation to generate a form that sheds water in the same way a canyon would shed water. They worked through several iterations and combined a slope analysis alongside a structural analysis to arrive at a final form that had the proper slope drainage and was optimally constructed. Rainwater and snowmelt follow the roof slope toward one of two slots on the east and west faces of the building. At the culmination of these two channels, where the channel meets the exterior walls, is a custom-fabricated precast concrete scupper that directs the water into a below-grade retention basin. The entire perimeter of the building is clad in five-eighths-inch thick precast concrete panels by Taktl in an open-jointed system. Everything behind the concrete is waterproofed and the rail mounting system is open to the air. The concrete panels hang with a consistent gap-joint to allow  for movement and expansion. Additionally there is a subtle curvature to the east and west facades that is not noticeable but, was detailed as a faceted curve to maximize the amount of flat, standardized panels. There were a few moments that called for a custom fabricated panel, namely one corner which has a filleted corner at the transition between two facades. The soffit of the building is constructed out of an acoustical plaster and fabricated in the field. The complex curvature of the soffit required intricate detailing of the x,y, and z coordinates to be constructed accurately. Following the lead of the exterior facade, the plaster expansion joints continue the lines between each panel. Initially, Brooks + Scarpa wanted to achieve a seamless transition between wall and roof. However, when they discovered this wasn’t possible they were forced to consider different options. Their solution was a quarter-inch flat aluminum channel that runs over both the TAKTL panels and the precast scupper to create a consistent cap where the wall meets the roof. There is a one-inch gap between the aluminum and the panels, however, the aluminum runs flat over the concrete scuppers. Conversely, where the concrete meets the plaster soffit, the plaster is held back the same one-inch dimension of the panels in a reveal. At the base of the facade, the concrete panels and acoustic plaster are held off from the ground in a similar dimension.
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Inverted facade pays tribute to history of cast iron architecture

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"How can cast-iron architecture be relevant, but not literal?" This is the question that Morris Adjmi's office asked when approaching the design of 83 Walker Street, a 9-story 19,000-square-foot residential building slated for completion later this year. In response, the architects designed an articulated wall surface of abstracted cast iron elements—posts and beams—that were cast into thickened pre-cast concrete wall panels. This "inverted" effect, the architects said, help to "evoke how cast iron was historically produced and assembled."
  • Facade Manufacturer BPDL (pre-cast concrete); Panoramic USA (windows); Guardian Industries (glass)
  • Architects Morris Adjmi Architects
  • Facade Installer Abra Construction (Owner/GC)
  • Facade Consultants n/a
  • Location New York City, NY
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Reinforced concrete frame with pre-cast concrete facade
  • Products Wood+ Mahogany Landmark Windows and Doors: W+1300 Fixed Windows (Sightline Construction); W+2600 Hopper Windows; W+2800 Tilt Turn Faux Double Hung Windows; W+3600 Awning Windows; 1-5/32" double pane low iron insulating glass with low E coating.
Morris Adjmi, principal at Morris Adjmi Architects (MA), said the lot width—at approximately 25 feet—was a common dimension for cast-iron loft buildings in the district and helped his project team in defining the composition of the facade. Despite a continuous program of residential units throughout the nine-story building, a "base-middle-top" composition strategy was employed to reference historic structures in the neighborhood. This equated to variation at the ground floor, a three-bay window subdivision in the middle floors, and a four-bay subdivision at the upper floor. This bay spacing acted as an organizational grid, informing window heights, proportions, and detailed articulation of the facade. The floor-to-floor pre-cast panels were initially designed as individual window bays but ended up being designed to the full width of the building. This allowed the structural reinforcement of the panels to be more efficient while also reducing the need for vertical joint lines between panels. Large window openings were infilled with mahogany wood units and configured as faux double hung tilt turn windows to satisfy historic appearance concerns. These special windows feature a fixed unit above with an in-swing awning below.   Adjmi says he has had extensive experience in working with pre-cast concrete and finds it to be a useful material due to the range of shapes and articulation that can be produced. He says an understanding of waterproofing techniques and the mold-making process of pre-cast panels helps to determine effective panel shapes and detailing strategies. The soft stone finish of the concrete, evocative of adjacent buff limestone facades, was carefully specified after a close collaboration between the architects and concrete panel manufacturer through studying various samples and finishes. The integral colored concrete was sandblasted to produce a subtle variation in texture and color for a more natural appearance. The resulting front elevation, composed of only nine panels, produces enough depth to cast generous shadow lines into deep recesses of the facade, a key feature that Adjmi attributes as one of the most successful features of the project. "The depth of this facade really works well in the streetscape. A lot of our projects try to do this. When you first see the building you don't notice anything, and then the more you look at it the richer it becomes." He concludes, "I think that it is both very modern and respectful of the neighborhood. It doesn't feel like trying to copy the immediately surrounding buildings too literally but at the same time it questions and highlights how these buildings came together."
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Just three concrete panel forms created this dramatic facade in Toronto

Often times, precast concrete is synonymous with monotonous architecture, but not in the case of Batay-Csorba Architect’s new 32,000-square-foot boutique office building in Toronto’s Liberty Village neighborhood. Dubbed "(Misfit)fit," the project consists of flexible office spaces spread over four of the building’s six stories, with retail space on the ground floor and a rooftop sculpture garden and event space that frames dramatic views of the Toronto skyline. When choosing the material for (Misfit)fit, the architects wished to add to the presence of precast concrete in the Toronto area without directly replicating previous examples. They chose, instead, to look within the Liberty Village neighborhood and found inspiration in the area's historic factory buildings. The articulation of brick along the openings and roof lines of these historic structures embodied the economy of mass production without the monotony that often plagues precast concrete structures. In order to create similar articulation on this facade, Batay-Csorba utilized modern fabrication techniques to create molds for two unique panels. Both of the larger panels were then divided into six sub-panels, which could be removed to create openings in the facade. With this system of panels and sub-panels, the architects were able to use a minimal number of molds to create maximum variety in a system similar to the historic bricks they studied. The stacked panels shift and rotate to create a definitive pattern that reads as unified but not monolithic. As the architects describe in their press release:
As panels are confronted with one another, their incompatibility is abrupt and glaringly obvious, allowing each element to be read independently against the larger mass. Individual edges and profiles are pronounced, reading not as a singularity but as a rough stacking of objects that have found their equilibrium.
(Misfit)fit stands with the weightiness of concrete and the variety of a brick system, a compilation of misfits working in harmony.
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SlenderWall: A high-performance architectural cladding system

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Architectural precast panels are durable, factory-made for quality, and offer an unlimited vocabulary for the architect’s expression. However, they can sometimes produce challenges to a construction project due to their weight. SlenderWall is a relatively new product designed to simplify architectural precast construction. It incorporates the design flexibility of precast into a lighter-weight assembly that also includes a vapor barrier, insulation, and interior framing studs.
  • Facade Manufacturer Smith-Midland Corp. (producer); Easi-Set Worldwide (licensor)
  • Architects Kaczmar Architects Inc.
  • Facade Installer Forest City Erectors, Walsh Construction (contractor)
  • Location Cleveland, OH
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System curtain wall
  • Products SlenderWall by Easi-Set® Worldwide (precast concrete in acid washed finish)
Chris Grogan, a representative with Smith-Midland Corp., a licensed manufacturer of SlenderWall panels, said that since the assembly is essentially an architectural finish concrete product, the aesthetics of the panels can be fully customizable just as with typical precast panel construction. "There's an infinite number of mix designs and the forming process is very similar to standard precast. The only difference is the framework which incorporates interior framing studs. The way we finish the panels is the same as well." SlenderWall is technically a lightweight curtain wall assembly that is thermal and fire code compliant. It is an entire envelope system packaged into a monolithic, panelized unit. This equates to fewer trades in the field who deal with the assembly of a building's facade. Grogan refers to SlenderWall as a “turnkey” approach to construction: "The product eliminates a lot of time and effort and potential risk for the contractor in the field. Now he has to worry about one trade, rather than four or five." The system’s two-inch exterior precast panel is composed of architectural concrete and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) fibers with welded-wire reinforcement. Stainless-steel fasteners attach this exterior concrete face to 14- and 16-gauge, G90 galvanized steel studs in a way that creates a thermal air gap filled with factory-applied, closed-cell foam insulation. The product is marketed as a lighter-weight version of traditional six-inch precast—at only a third of the weight—and was initially produced to replace typical precast systems. This is exactly what happened at the Holiday Inn on the Cleveland Clinic campus in Ohio, where a decision was made to convert the designed facade from traditional precast to an integrated wall assembly due to the cost of craning heavier panels eight stories into the area. The decision to adopt SlenderWall into the design resulted in a design-build delivery format for the entire building envelope. The nine-story, 276-room hotel, designed by Kaczmar Architects, Inc. (KAI) integrated Cleveland Clinic's architectural guidelines, which called for a minimal palette with specific wood trim detailing and modern detailing. Traditional precast detailing at the base of the building, also manufactured by Smith-Midland, was able to produce a compatible aesthetic. Typical jobs that use the SlenderWall product involve high levels of coordination among the contractor, the architect, and licensed manufacturers like Smith-Midland, which ultimately lays out the panels to meet project-specific structural and aesthetic requirements. This is the lengthiest part of the process, according to Grogan, but results in a highly efficient factory-controlled fabrication process, and a fast-tracked construction process in the field. Cost savings are maximized when highly repetitive high-rise designs are able to incorporate larger format panels, and a single set of plans and details will take care of the entire building envelope. Contractors eliminate the scheduling and warranty issues that arise when multiple insulation and interior framing crews are required—and, in high-rises, the challenges of bringing in the oversized cranes necessary to lift significantly heavier architectural precast panels into place (as was the case for the Holiday Inn) are eliminated. Aside from the Cleveland Clinic Holiday Inn, other projects include ETS Montreal, a student-housing complex with three-color panels in 32 different window configurations and factory-applied R-21 closed-cell foam and factory-installed windows. And, due to its light weight, SlenderWall is easily installed on job sites with reduced access such as with Hyatt House, a $90-million 13-story hotel on Jersey City's waterfront. The re-cladding of a nine-story building on the Johns Hopkins Medicine Baltimore Campus also benefited from the lightweight SlenderWall system. Its 30 pounds-per-square-foot specification and unique composite construction allowed for re-cladding to take place without the removal of the old fascia. There was also no need for additional superstructure or foundation costs and the facility was able to stay operational during the exterior renovation.
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Navy Pier's new "Wave Wall" by nArchitects lays a modern Spanish Steps at the foot of a Ferris wheel

Navy Pier is three years into a $278 million overhaul, and the new face of Illinois' most visited tourist attraction is beginning to emerge—most recently a grand staircase titled “Wave Wall" washed over the foot of the pier's famous ferris wheel. The peninsular mall and mixed-use amusement park has many major changes still in store, courtesy of a design team led by James Corner Field Operations. But photos available on the website of designers nARCHITECTS reveal a completed portion of the project collectively called “Pierscape” that creates an outdoor amphitheater from a simple stairway. (The full design team includes dozens of consultants.) The form of the new public space, which faces south into Chicago Harbor, resembles a sweeping wave or a wending draft of wind. Treads made of composite materials domesticate the snarling steel risers. Glass beneath the steps allow passersby indoors at the Pier to glimpse activity on the steps outside. From the bottom of the stairs, the project unspools into an audience seating area for public performances, and also frames the historic Navy Pier Ferris wheel—a 196-foot tall wheel will soon replace the current one, itself a stand-in for the 264-foot icon first transported to the spot from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The designers say “Wave Wall” was inspired by the Spanish Steps in Rome.
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Shelter Subterfuge by ASK Studio

Architectural sleight of hand transforms a FEMA safe room from bunker to glass box.

Tasked with designing a community center on a shoestring budget, Des Moines–based ASK Studio was unsure how to fit the program to the project's finances. Then an attendee at a community feedback session suggested applying for FEMA funds to build a combination community room and storm shelter. The FEMA tie-in solved the money problem, but it created an aesthetic challenge. The architects had originally diagrammed the community center, sited atop a central knoll in a large park in Urbandale, Iowa, as a connection point that would orient visitors without obstructing views. When the project was redefined as a safe room, said ASK's Brent Schipper, "I just cringed, because how do you have a transparent node that's also a tornado shelter? I thought, 'We're going to make a bunker, and pretend it works as the node of the centerpiece of the park.'" Luckily, Schipper's gut reaction proved wrong. A triumph of architectural sleight of hand, ASK's Giovannetti Community Shelter is built evidence that "welcoming safe room" is not an oxymoron. The modified program in place, the architects began by asking themselves, "How do you achieve transparency when all you have is concrete walls?" said Schipper. They turned first to the roof line, adding a sense of weightlessness with a broad overhang above a picnic area. Though not part of the shelter function—it would likely shear off in the event of a serious storm—the overhang plays an important role in the structure's aesthetic identity. Thanks to the canopy, "there are parts of the building that are light," said Schipper. "You can't tell it was a concrete box."
  • Facade Manufacturer MPC Enterprises (precast wall panels), Molin Concrete Products (precast roof panels), Insulgard (tornado windows), Manko (storefront)
  • Architects ASK Studio
  • Facade Installer Steel Erectors of Iowa (concrete), Two Rivers Glass & Door (glazing)
  • Location Urbandale, IA
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • System precast concrete roof and walls with storm-safe windows, exterior storefront and cedar siding
  • Products precast concrete wall and roof panels, Insulgard storm-safe windows, Manko storefront, cedar siding
A second gesture further forestalls any temptation to identify Giovannetti Community Shelter with Cold War-era bunker architecture. A glass storefront (again not included in the shelter program) encloses the walkway connecting the shelter room to the rest of the park. "When you use the building, you're always circulating in the corridor, so you're always visually connected to the park," said Schipper. "The glass belies the fact that the room you were just in is a storm shelter." The curtain wall also defines the building's exterior appearance, particularly on the south side. "What you see from the south elevation is a mostly glass structure with these very minimal roof lines," said Schipper. The tornado shelter itself was constructed from a 12-inch-thick precast concrete roof and wall panels. To keep the room from feeling too closed-off, ASK initially sketched in storm doors between the protected space and the glass corridor. Then the architects heard about Insulgard, whose tornado-safe windows had recently received FEMA approval. The architects ditched the door idea and instead installed safety windows (approximately 1 1/2 inches thick) on both the exterior walls and the wall between the shelter and the corridor. "[The design] would not have worked if you were in that room and you never had any glimpses of the outside," said Schipper. "I was amazed by the technology of the storm windows." Though ASK faced several challenges in designing the Giovannetti Community Shelter, none of the firm’s solutions were overly complicated. "In the end, it's a very simple parti," said Schipper. "We were staking all of the drama, all of the messaging, on two moves: the overhang of the roof, and the transparency of the glass facade. When you back away, it's like, 'you only did two things.' But those two things are particularly unique to the fact that it's a tornado shelter."