Posts tagged with "precast concrete":

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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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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."
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BNIM’s Entrepreneurial Envelope for the University of Missouri-Kansas City

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.
  • Facade Manufacturer Enterprise Precast Concrete
  • Architects BNIM, Moore Ruble Yudell
  • Facade Installer JE Dunn Construction
  • Location Kansas City, MO
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • System precast concrete with embedded terra cotta elements, high performance glass curtain wall
  • Products NBK architectural terra cotta, YCW 750 XT high performance curtain wall from YKK
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.  
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LMN Architects Materialize a Metaphor in Cleveland

A digitally-designed medical products showroom plays well with its City Beautiful neighbors.

The Global Center for Health Innovation, designed by LMN Architects along with the attached Cleveland Convention Center, is more than a showroom for medical products and services. Located adjacent to the Burnham Malls, the open space at the heart of Daniel Burnham’s Group Plan of 1903, the building is part of Cleveland’s civic core. “One of the things about the Global Center is that it has a unique expression and in particular the facade treatment,” said design partner Mark Reddington. “But it’s also a really integrated piece of a bigger idea and a bigger composition.” A dynamic combination of textured concrete panels and irregular slashes of glazing, the Global Center’s facade, which won honorable mention in AN’s 2014 Best of Design Awards, deftly negotiates the gap between the building’s historic context and its function as a high-tech marketplace. The Global Center’s City Beautiful surrounds influenced its facade design in several ways. “Part of the trick for us in looking at the Global Center,” said project architect Stephen Van Dyck, “was to try and make a building that was contemporary and relevant, but also a building that referred and deferred to its context materially and compositionally.” As a reflection on the solidity of the older structures ringing the Malls, the architects minimized glazing in the east face’s concrete system. In addition, they chose the color and aggregates of the concrete to mimic the tone of limestone. The texturing on the concrete panels, too, was informed by the Global Center’s context. “Like the classical buildings, there’s a lot of detail that shows up in different lighting conditions,” said Reddington. At the same time, the Global Center is very much a product of the 21st century. “There was an explicit intention in creating a facade whose qualities would not have been achievable without digital technology,” said Van Dyck. “It doesn’t look like it was handcrafted. It was primarily an exercise in allowing the technical means of creation and design to live forever on the outside of this building.” In particular, he said, the architects were interested in how their chosen material—precast concrete—allowed them to move beyond a punched-window system to a more complicated relationship between solids and voids. The result eventually became a scientific metaphor, as the designers observed the resemblance of the pattern to the twisting helices of a DNA molecule. LMN developed the facade design on a remarkably short timeline: about four months from concept to shop drawings. “The schedule requirements of the whole thing were absurd,” said Van Dyck. To make modifying the design as easy as possible, the architects developed a utility called Cricket to link Grasshopper and Revit. The ability to update the BIM model in real time convinced the design-build team to take risks despite the compressed timeframe. “Once they realized there was a strong mastery of the data, an ability to listen and incorporate the needs of [multiple] parties, that was really the breakthrough,” explained Van Dyck. “They said, ‘Hey, we can build something that’s a little unconventional.’”
  • Facade Manufacturer Sidley Precast Group, NUPRESS Group
  • Architects LMN Architects
  • Facade Consultant Facade Forensics
  • Facade Installer Harmon
  • Location Cleveland, OH
  • Date of Completion June 2013
  • System Precast concrete panels and glazing welded to vertical steel tubes, structural glass wall
  • Products Precast concrete panels by Sidley Precast Group, Viracon VU1-40 (glazing), Viracon VE1-2M (atrium wall)
Besides their Cricket plug-in, a 3D printer was LMN’s most valuable tool during the design process. To explore how the panels’ texturing would animate the facade under different lighting conditions, they created plaster models from 3D-printed casts. “We had to do that because the geometry was so complex that we didn’t have any computers at the time that were capable of [modeling it],” said Van Dyck. “For us, working between the physical, digital, hand-drawn renderings were all so critical in discovering what we ultimately ended up building.” Sidley Precast Group fabricated the concrete panels with a surface pattern of horizontal joints that vary in depth and height. To minimize cost, the fabricators made almost all of the molds from a single 8-by-10-foot master formliner, with horizontal ribs spaced every 6 inches acting as dams for the smaller molds. While LMN Architects originally wanted to limit the number of panel types to eight, the final count was around 50, including larger pieces made by connecting smaller panels vertically. The approximately 400 precast panels were moved by crane to a system of vertical steel tubes running from slab to slab, then welded into place. The Viracon glazing was welded to the same tubes, a couple of inches back from the face of the concrete. The large atrium window on the building’s east face was manufactured by NUPRESS Group. For the architects, the significance of the Global Center’s facade remains tied to its broader context. Its design, while driven by modern technology, achieves a surprising degree of harmony with its surroundings. “Our building is in a way very classical, though it wasn’t an explicit intention of ours,” said Van Dyck. “To create a language that was both universal and also something that was really new—from our perspective that was a big achievement of the project.”
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CUNY’s Brick Paneled Back-to-Schoolhouse to Open at WTC

In a neighborhood of glass and steel, Fiterman Hall stands out. The new building, part of the CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College downtown campus, is designed by Pei Cobb Freed and sits adjacent to the World Trade Center. The 17-story building is fronted in large prefabricated red-brick panels rhythmically relieved by square glass windows revealing multilevel interior atria. At a cost of $325 million, this is not your grandmother's little red schoolhouse. The vertical seams between the brick-faced precast panels betray the interlocking nature of classic red brick and the smooth prefab surface contrasts the tactile quality of hand laid masonry. Regardless, the panels certainly place Fiterman apart as an institutional structure amidst corporate America’s continued penchant for glass. Brick paneling is hardly new, but with prefabricated buildings making inroads, it’s hard not to view them as another form of value engineering requiring less union hands at the construction site. But David Sovinski, director of industry development for the International Masonry Institute (IMI), said that their membership doesn’t have a problem with the material. IMI is an alliance between the International Union of Bricklayers, Allied Craftworkers, and contractors who promote masonry construction. He noted that IMI union members are better trained to install the panels, as they are with most enclosure methods except glazing. Their main goal, regardless of the method, is to keep trained union hands on the site. “They get man hours off all kinds of construction,” said Sovinski. “You can always go to a factory in rural Pennsylvania for nonunion cheaper labor, but our training is more productive. If you use a trained craft person you don’t get callbacks to fix mistakes.” The completion of Fiterman Hall is probably one of the more high profile uses of the material in Manhattan, but with the Gotham West tower swiftly rising on Eleventh Avenue and 44th Street, it won’t be the largest. There, more than 1,200 apartments will stretch over almost an entire city block. Gotham’s 11th Avenue tower and midblock low-rise are already getting brick panels slapped on as fast as you can say "prefab." Once again, at Gotham, the panels appear smooth, uniform, and manufactured. “I prefer laid in place, I think it’s a better system,” admitted Sovinski. “When you see these fake solutions, it just looks poor.”
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Morphosis’ Museum of Nature & Science Facade: Gate Precast

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A new cultural focal point takes shape in Dallas

When the Dallas Museum of Nature & Science was created from the 2006 merger of three city museums—the Museum of Natural History, The Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum—the new institution set its sites on expanding programming with a new facility in the city’s Victory Park neighborhood. Now, the 180,000-square-foot Morphosis-designed Perot Museum of Nature & Science is slated for completion in 2013. Located at the northwest corner of Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Field Street, it marks the future crossroads of the city’s Trinity River Corridor Project and the city’s cultural districts. Floating atop an irregularly shaped plinth that will be the base for a one-acre rooftop ecosystem, the museum’s striated concrete facade offers a first glimpse at the dynamic transformation of the site.
  • Fabricator Gate Precast
  • Architect Morphosis
  • Location Dallas, Texas
  • Status Estimated 2013 completion
  • Materials Precast concrete
  • Process Revit, BIM, concrete casting
Early renderings show a smooth monolithic cube as the museum’s main volume, but the Morphosis team began working with the Hillsboro, Texas, branch of Gate Precast early in the project to develop a horizontally striped precast concrete panel design for the facade. “They wanted something different from everything else in Dallas,” said Gate sales and marketing manager Scott Robinson. “The architects wanted it to be true, raw, and modern.” To this end, Morphosis selected a plain gray concrete mix, without pigment or white cement, for the facade, knowing there would be natural mottling to each panel. “They didn’t want the building to look painted,” said Robinson. In total, the company will fabricate 655 precast pieces for the project. Gate created a series of mock-ups using random combinations of convex and concave shapes that would flow seamlessly from one panel to the next. After refining the design in Revit, Gate’s BIM operators modeled more than 100,000 square feet of precast cladding on the museum’s exterior for Morphosis’ 3-D models. Wood-framed concrete molds constructed in a range of set dimensions (the average size is 8 by 30 feet) helped keep facade costs lower. Within these, convex and concave rubber pieces based on the team’s digital models can be placed to achieve the desired striation. In the harsh Texas sun, the random shapes cast bold shadows across the building’s elevations, gradually giving way to smooth concrete surfaces on the higher levels. Because the pattern continues at the building’s corners, end panels required a two-step process: The short end was poured and set first, then rotated to allow the long section to be poured before the two pieces were attached with a cold joint. The curved precast panels for the museum’s base created another challenge—building formwork in multiple axes. Gate’s engineering department created a series of geometric points and calculations for its carpentry wing, and carpenters built the formwork by hand without any CNC equipment. “The hard part is that they get a picture of what the panel looks like, and they have to build the reverse of that,” said Robinson. The curved precast panels will require nearly 80 unique molds in all, comprising about 15 percent of the project’s precast concrete. For its final contribution to the project, Gate will cast several pieces that Morphosis is referring to as “sticks”—long precast beams that will decorate the site as sculpture or functional elements once the new museum’s rooftop ecosystem, with landscape architecture by Dallas-based Talley Associates, is in place.