Brooklyn-based architecture firm REX will design the approximately 80,000 square foot Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center (PAC). The PAC will produce and show theater, music, musical theater, dance, film, and opera. The commission was previously given to Frank Gehry over a decade ago. “We are honored to design such a meaningful project on a site imbued with deep significance for the people of New York,” Joshua Prince-Ramus, REX's principal, said in a statement. “I am confident that our collaboration with PAC's exceptional team will help create a building that embodies and inspires the many dimensions of creative expression." REX topped a shortlist comprised of Copenhagen's Henning Larsen and Amsterdam's UNStudio. PAC Chairman John Zuccotti and President/Director Maggie Boepple selected the Brooklyn-based firm to design the project, although designs have yet to be released. Last week, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) released $10 million of a pledged $99 million for the construction of the new venue. The project may cost more, but the difference will be made up through private donations. REX will collaborate with Davis Brody Bond (designers of the National 9/11 Memorial Museum), theater consultants Charcoalblue, and project managers DBI on the project. The PAC has gone through a few design selection cycles. In 2013, Frank Gehry was selected to build the center, but his proposal was downsized, and ultimately scrapped. The new venue is slated to open in 2019.
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As the United States capital,Washington, D.C. is a de facto magnet for smart people who want to make an impact on government. The city doesn't often make headlines for its contemporary architecture, though occasionally, a sharp new project breaks into the parade of undistinguished office buildings. One of those is a newly unveiled 11-story structure by Brooklyn-based REX at 2050 M Street, between Washington and Dupont Circles. While the client is Tishman Speyer, CBS will be the 400,000-square-foot building's primary tenant. The project's executive architect is Houston's Kendall/Heaton. The building responds to D.C.'s strict zoning codes and its prevailing office building typologies: the Neoclassical, Beaux Arts, or Brutalist box, and the smooth, soulless glass box. Zoning requires buildings to have similar height and mass, but do not regulate, or encourage, aesthetic harmony. As a result, statement buildings with similar width and height, but widely divergent styles, compete for attention. To reconcile this peculiarity, REX's building combines the mass of a stately Neoclassical building with a transparent, fluted glass facade. According to REX, the facade is comprised of "nine hundred identical, insulated-glass panels—11.5 feet tall by 5 feet wide—are subtly curved to a 9.5 foot radius through a heat roller tempering process." The floor-to-ceiling "mullion-less" windows allow sightlines that extend through the interior. The result is an exterior that catches light at regular but unexpected angles and throws pleasantly distorted images of its neighbors back at the viewer. To offset the rigidity of glass, the lobby is clad in decidedly non-vegan cowhide, and is large enough to accommodate a site-specific sculpture by an as-yet-unnamed artist. When it is complete in 2019, 2050 M Street hopes to achieve LEED Gold certification. See the gallery below for more images of the project. 2015 was a successful year for REX. In September, principal Joshua Prince-Ramus won the Marcus Prize. The biannual honor (and cash prize) is given to an architect "on a trajectory of greatness." As part of his Marcus Prize acceptance, Prince-Ramus will teach a graduate studio on adaptive reuse at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee School of Architecture this Spring.
Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at the New York firm REX Architecture, has won the prestigious biennial Marcus Prize, claiming $100,000 in the process. He is the first American to receive the distinction. Bob Greenstreet, dean of the School of Architecture & Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which administers the award, commented: "He is headed to the pantheon of greatness...and yet his ideas are still evolving." In 2008, Esquire magazine went so far as to dub Prince-Ramus the "savior of American architecture." Prince-Ramus focuses on efficiency in his projects, outlining the need for architecture to achieve its functional purpose. To accomplish this he identifies the basics, what the building really needs to do. Arranging these components, he creates analytical models which in turn gradually form the building blocks of the structure. From here Prince-Ramus can now focus on making these components work together and actually move on from the concept. This process can be seen in the gallery below. During one of his TED Talks, Prince-Ramus said, "It's time for architecture to do things again, not just represent things," further indicating that the functional requirements of clients should be a priority for contemporary architects, voicing his apathy for the profession to be seen as an art.
Last year, AN explored REX's strategy to revamp a brutalist, ziggurat-shaped tower on Manhattan's west side with a modern, pleated-glass facade. Since the Davis Brody Bond–designed structure was originally a warehouse, developer Brookfield Properties thought it made sense to give the building a glassy facelift before the tech companies moved in. As AN reported:
REX’s new facade is a formal response to pragmatic challenges at the site. Originally built as a warehouse over the rail yard, the pyramid-shaped structure boasts 14-foot-tall ceilings, but day lighting was not a concern. New building codes dictating accessibility required ample headroom at the slanting walls. [REX Principal] Prince-Ramus said his system of floor-to-ceiling tapering glass pleats maximizes interior space while addressing energy efficiency issues. The curtain wall’s under-slung surfaces are self-shaded from the sun, reducing solar glare and heat gain while creating a more transparent, lively façade from street level.Now, the $200 million project is taking shape. Construction watch blog Field Condition recently spotted REX's curtain wall rising at the building, now known as 5 Manhattan West. The entire project is expected to be completed next year. Take a look at the gallery below, courtesy of Field Condition, and read our coverage about the project here.
A jury of architects, landscape architects, critics, educators, and planners has named the 35 winning projects of this year's AIA New York Chapter Design Awards. "Each winning project, granted either an 'Honor' or 'Merit' award, was chosen for its design quality, response to its context and community, program resolution, innovation, thoughtfulness, and technique," AIANY said in a statement. "Submitted projects had to be completed by members of the AIA New York Chapter, architects/designers practicing in New York, or be New York projects designed by architects/designers based elsewhere." Take a look at the winning teams in the architecture category below. But before we get to that, let's start with the Best in Competition distinction which goes to SsD and its Songpa Micro Housing in Seoul, Korea (above). "Like the ambiguous gel around a tapioca pearl, this ‘Tapioca Space’ becomes a soft intersection between public/private and interior/exterior building social fabrics between immediate neighbors," the firm said in a statement. "Finally, as this is housing for emerging artists, exhibition spaces on the ground floor and basement are spatially linked to the units as a shared living room. Although the zoning regulation requires the building to be lifted for parking, this open ground plan is also used to pull the pedestrians in from the street and down a set of auditorium-like steps, connecting city and building residents to the exhibition spaces below." Okay, now onto the Honor Awards in the architecture category. Davis Brody Bond National September 11 Memorial Museum New York, NY
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center
Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology
From the architects: "Remembering the fallen Twin Towers through their surviving physical structural footprints, the 9/11 Memorial Museum stands witness to the tragedy and its impact."John Wardle Architects and NADAAA Melbourne School of Design Melbourne, Australia
From the architects: "The new building for the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning responds to the urban design values identi- fi ed in the Campus Master Plan and enhances the existing open spaces within the historic core of the Centre Precinct of the Parkville Campus. It engages with the existing landscape elements, continues the sequence of outdoor rooms arrayed across the campus, and links strongly to the intricate network of circulation routes that surround the site. The new building compliments and enhances the sense of place that the Eastern Precinct of the Parkville Campus already commands."REX Vakko Fashion Center Istanbul, Turkey
From the architects: "Turkey’s pre-eminent fashion house, Vakko, and Turkey’s equivalent of MTV, Power Media, planned to design and construct a new headquarters in an extremely tight schedule using an unfinished, abandoned hotel. Fortuitously, the unfinished building had the same plan dimension, floor-to-floor height, and servicing concept as another one of our projects, the Annenberg Center’s 'Ring', which had been cancelled. By adapting the construction documents produced for that project to the abandoned concrete hotel skeleton, construction on the perimeter office block commenced only four days after Vakko/Power first approached our team. This adaptive re-use opened a six-week window during which the more unique portions of the program could be designed simultaneous to construction."ROGERS PARTNERS Architects+Urban Designers Henderson-Hopkins School Baltimore, MD
From the architects: "The new Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School and The Harry And Jeanette Weinberg Early Childhood Center, together called Henderson Hopkins, is the fi rst new Baltimore public school built in 30 years. A cornerstone for the largest redevelopment project in Baltimore, it is envisioned as a catalyst in the revitalization of East Baltimore. The seven-acre campus will house 540 K-8 students and 175 pre-school children."WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/
From the architects: "A botanic garden is an unusual kind of museum: a fragile collection constantly in flux. As a constructed natural environment, it is dependent on man-made infrastructures to thrive. New York City’s Brooklyn Botanic Garden contains a wide variety of landscapes organized into discrete settings such as the Japanese Garden, the Cherry Esplanade, the Osborne Garden, the Overlook, and the Cranford Rose Garden. The Botanic Garden exists as an oasis in the city, visually separated from the neighborhood by elevated berms and trees."WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/
From the architects: "The newly-opened Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology demonstrates the University of Pennsylvania’s leadership in the emerging field of nanotechnology. Nanoscale research is at the core of cutting-edge breakthroughs that transcend disciplinary boundaries of engineering, medicine, and the sciences. The new Center for Nanotechnology contains a rigorous collection of advanced labs, woven together by collaborative public spaces that enable interaction between different fields. The University’s first cross disciplinary building, the Singh Center encourages the exchange and integration of knowledge that characterizes the study of this emerging field and combines the resources of both engineering and the sciences."Merit Awards Garrison Architects NYC Emergency Housing Prototype Brooklyn, NY H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture Theatre for a New Audience at Polonsky Shakespeare Center Brooklyn, NY Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects Toroishiku (Marc Jacobs Building) Tokyo, Japan Louise Braverman, Architect Village Health Works Staff Housing Kigutu, Burundi Maryann Thompson Architects Pier Two at Brooklyn Bridge Park Brooklyn, NY OPEN Architecture Garden School Beijing, China PARA-Project Haffenden House Syracuse, NY Skidmore, Owings & Merrill University Center – The New School New York, NY Thomas Phifer and Partners Project: United States Courthouse, Salt Lake City Location: Salt Lake City, UT Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects Project: Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts Location: Chicago, IL
Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, has a bone to pick with modernism and its legacy. “For the last 100 years, architecture’s been involved in a silly tension between form and function,” he said. While high modernism privileged function over form, some of today’s top designers argue that architecture is about aesthetics and not much else. REX has a different take: architecture, the firm claims, is both function and form. “We really believe that architecture can do things. It’s not just a representational art form,” said Prince-Ramus. “We talk about performance. Aesthetics are part of performance [as is function.]” Prince-Ramus, who will deliver the afternoon keynote address at next week’s facades+PERFORMANCE New York conference, approaches facade design as an integral part of the design process as a whole. That process, in turn, revolves around a concept he calls agenda. “We set out in our projects to figure out what the project’s agenda should be, then we set out to delimit the constraints,” he said. “Then we try to find the embodiment of the agenda that will fit seamlessly within those constraints.” REX’s current projects include a pair of headquarters buildings for sister media companies in the Middle East. The stone-clad towers are covered in retractable sunshades that reference a traditional Arab Mashrabiya pattern. As an example of how constraints can influence facade design, Prince-Ramus cited the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas. REX (with OMA) slashed the project’s envelope budget in order to build a theater that changes shape to suit different arts events. The money they were left with, said Prince-Ramus, was about what standard aluminum siding would cost—so they started there. “We made a dummy design where we spent a lot of effort trying to not design something aesthetically, but that we’d put it out to the market and uncover what in the market drove costs,” he said. In Dallas that turned out to be weight, since frequent hail storms require thick siding. REX/OMA developed a facade system of extruded tubes that would protect against hailstones while minimizing the amount of aluminum required. “We made something that was very beautiful and very unique,” said Prince-Ramus. “Certainly if we’d come back to the client with flat aluminum siding they would have said, ‘Put the money back into the facade.'...The success of the facade is why we were able to build a building that’s renowned for its ability to transform.” While the Wyly Theatre facade was shaped by financial constraints, the client’s particular vision informed the envelope for the Mercedes Benz Future Center in Stuttgart. “Part of the collective agenda was that the building should be very transparent, as opposed to museums, which tend to be very cloistered,” said Prince-Ramus. But the automaker also wanted the Future Center, which will display its vision for the future of automobile technology, to be “a beacon for sustainability.” REX’s current solution (which may change as the design develops) is to create a curtain-like sunshade that wraps around the all-glass building. The shade is opaque on one side of the building and nearly transparent on the other, and rotates with the sun’s movements. The curtain is a metaphor for the unknowability of the future: Prince-Ramus recalled the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, which says that it is impossible to simultaneously determine the value of certain variables. “The more you know of one, the less you know of others,” he said. “In discussions about the future, that idea seemed really inherent in what they’re doing [at Mercedes Benz].” Whatever the origin of a particular facade design, for Prince-Ramus it always comes back to performance, the standard that for him encapsulates both function and aesthetics. “The more we’ve used the word performance, the more I’m convinced it does have that dual meaning,” he said. “When [they] talk about a high-performance auto, they don’t just mean it goes from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. They mean it’s sexy, too.” To hear Joshua Prince-Ramus speak next week, visit the facades+PERFORMANCE New York conference website.
Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center was designed with natural sunlight in mind. A roof covered by pierced aluminum screens allows dappled light to enter its art galleries in subtle warmth. The outdoor sculpture garden is open to the elements and a specifically-planted landscape by Peter Walker reaps the benefits of the Texan sun. Since its construction in 2005, the museum has become an icon of the Dallas Arts District. In 2011, a 42-story condominium building went up across the street, banking on the popularity of Piano’s art haven. While the glazed curved glass facade of “Museum Tower” offers million dollar views of the museum below, it burns the artworks and plants with a directed glare. Now, a pair of New York–based architects might have a solution. A bitter debate between the buildings has ensued; but New York–based design studios REX and Front Studio Architects have been commissioned to propose a solution. Situated over the dividing street, Surya, a 400 foot tall light-responsive sunshade sculpture, will balance the Nasher’s need for shade and the Tower’s client promise of a clear view of Piano’s architecture. Tracking the movement of the sun on Museum Tower, the firms have determined when the glare on the art center is at its peak intensity. The Surya sculpture is a free-form thin aluminum ring, its shape determined by ability to block the most reflected light while being the least intrusive on views from the built environment. Spokes to the sculpture’s center support sun-reactive panels, which expand under harsh glare and retract in normal conditions. The sculpture will prevent continued sunlight damage to the works and gardens of the Nasher Sculpture Center, and is hoped to end museum-goers’ constant need for sunglasses. In the debate over which party should take action—the museum or the owners of the neighboring tower—it seems that Museum Tower has made a concrete step for resolve. The Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund, the Tower’s developer, appointed REX and Front to invent the Surya design and to construct it in the physical middle ground between the two structures.
Out of a crop of 26, ten teams have been invited to present their technical proposals for the renovation of the Mies van der Rohe–designed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. District officials are hoping to transform the landmark 1972 building, Mies’ last built work and his only in D.C., into a state-of-the-art central library fit for the nation’s capital. The finalists are Cunningham Quil Architects and 1100 Architects, Ennead Architects and Marshall Moya Architects, Leo A. Daly and Richard Bauer, Martinez and Johnson Architects and Mecanoo Architects, OMA and Quinn Evans Architects, Patkua Architects and Ayer Saint Gross, REX and Davis Carter Scott Architects, Shalom Baranes and Davis Brody Bond, Skidmorw Owings & Merill, and Studios Architecture and The Freelon Group. With the library’s plumbing, HVAC and elevator systems in need of replacement, asbestos present throughout the building, and annual maintenance costs soaring to $5 million, the aging athenaeum demands some serious work. Library officials have given their chosen architects a few different options, from a simple update of the building’s ailing systems, to construction of two additional floors or a complete gutting the interior. Either way, the transformation is scheduled to wrap up by 2018.
The first line of a press statement sent out by developers of the REX-designed Museum Plaza tower in Louisville, Kentucky put it bluntly: "Museum Plaza will not be built." The 62-story hyper-rational tower—part kunsthalle museum, part residential and commercial hub, part art school—was hoped to signal the rejuvenation of the city's urban core, but like so many iconic buildings proposed in the days leading up to the great recession, the vision succumbed to the realities of the financial markets. Original plans set forth in early 2006 called for a modern art museum on the 23rd floor, accessed by a diagonal funicular, to form the hub between hotel, residential, and office space. A massive park atop a parking garage, originally designed by West 8 Landscape Architects and then turned over to artist Ned Kahn formed the plaza. Construction actually began in 2008 but halted abruptly as foundation work caused dangerous vibrations in surrounding 1850s era cast-iron buildings. While plans were reworked, financing fell through and the project has languished ever since, remaining little more than a few dozen capped piles at the bottom of a large pit. The site, located along the Ohio River between an interstate highway and a flood wall, complicated construction and was described by Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, as a "bath tub." Last year, the project team applied for a $100 million federal loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 108 program, but the team formally withdrew its request this morning. Developers Craig Greenberg, Laura Lee Brown, Steve Wilson, and Steve Poe remained optimistic that the project could ride out the recession, but in a statement and letter to the Mayor of Louisville and Governor of Kentucky this morning, the team put forth a more sober outlook: "Through this process we have endured four years of the worst recession of our lifetime and the most challenging lending market ever. There are no signs of improvement in the near future... we painfully decided that this project could not be built in this economy." The development team is leaving Museum Plaza behind, and is now shifting its attention to a group of five mid-19th century former whiskey warehouses that they saved from demolition.
Could REX's massive office/condo/hotel/art center finally be alive? We heard from Joshua Prince-Ramus that a "big announcement" about the project was coming, and now word arrives that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and the project's developers have called a press conference for 10:00 AM tomorrow. Has financing been secured? Is the project being scrapped? We'll know more tomorrow morning. Hats off to Braden Klayko, the brains behind Broken Sidewalk and an AN contributor, who even when he isn't blogging is still most in-the-know person about architecture, planning, and development in Louisville. Thanks for the tip. UPDATE: Another tipster says the developers have secured a HUD loan for the project. Will the program be altered to meet the terms of the loan?
Whether you are buying gifts this weekend or merely window-shopping, New Yorkers willing to brave the crowds on upper Madison Avenue can also see cutting edge architecture, albeit in miniature form. REX has designed a doll house for the Calvin Klein Collection, on view now through January 5, 2009 at their store on Madison at 60th Street. But this doll house isn’t child’s play. The structure, which looks like a large origami birdhouse suspended from diagonal braces, was built with the help of Magnusson Klemencic engineers and the fabricators at Situ Studio. While this rendering makes the piece look like it’s suspended between buildings on one of New York’s canyon-like streets, it is, in reality, hung in the window. Go see it for yourself. UPDATE: Here are some photographs of the doll house, for comparison with the rendering. It's pretty impressive. The interiors feature tiny versions of Calvin Klein's apparel, furniture, and home accessories lines.