Yesterday, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) approved Extell Development’s contentious residential tower on the Upper West Side, according to Gothamist. After years of back and forth over the height, the Snøhetta-designed 50 West 66th Street is set to rise at 776 feet tall—the tallest building in the neighborhood—and will keep its significant mechanical void space at the core of the tower's chiseled frame. The project was under threat as recently as last month, when preservation organization Landmarks West claimed that Extell was inflating the building’s height with its 192-foot-tall mechanical void in order to charge a higher premium for top-level units. As AN has previously reported, the Billionaire’s Row developer has pulled this move before, side-stepping zoning regulations throughout the city and ignoring caps on maximum floor areas. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said the appeal's loss, which occurred in a 2-2 vote tie since one of the BSA members abstained from the process, was major and signals a problem for future similar developments. Opponents have been worried that real estate giants like Extell could use this as a precedent to design large voids in other tower projects in order to boost their overall size. A similar claim was levied against the Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed 249 East 62nd Street when it was first revealed. Back in early 2019, Extell almost lost the project entirely when it was forced to rethink the tower’s 700-plus-foot height (it was originally pitched at 262 feet). Brewer said construction permits would be revoked, despite approval by the Department of Buildings if Extell failed to change the arrangement and height of its mechanical spaces. The outcry, from both public officials and local residents of the Upper West Side, resulted in a study by the Department of City Planning that detailed how, in New York City, mechanical floors had been excluded from the zoning floor area calculation. In late May, the New York City Council voted to prevent developers from further exploiting this loophole by limiting the height of mechanical voids to 25 feet. Because 50 West 66th Street was passed before the amendment was made to the zoning law, Gothamist noted the luxury tower will now hold a mechanical void space that totals 176 feet in height—a 16-foot reduction to appease Brewer’s request, but it will now be split into three sections: two 64-foot-tall mechanical areas and a 48-foot-tall void. Sean Khorsandi, executive director of Landmarks West, told Gothamist that the appeal rejection wasn't as shocking as the way the vote played out. “I think it’s ridiculous that even in the case of a tie, the community loses.” Critics of the project now have the opportunity to file a court appeal as a last-ditch effort to stop it from moving forward. AN has reached out to Snøhetta for comment.
Posts tagged with "Snøhetta":
Sidewalk Labs, the architecture and urbanism spinoff of Google parent company Alphabet, has detailed a new model for designing tall timber towers on their Medium page. The “digital proof-of-concept,” designed in Revit and hosted in BIM 360, is called PMX (proto-model X), and is intended to show how a modular 35-story tower could be designed and built effectively and efficiently using almost exclusively timber. The Sidewalk Labs team went through eight design steps: Addressing site (the decision was to make the design site-agnostic), massing, structure, program, MEP, a passive house–like envelope, Ontario code compliance (likely to speed the process along when implementation in Quayside, Toronto), and ease of manufacture. The structure itself is perhaps what is most interesting about PMX—the design is pretty basic—which also is directly tied to its ability to be modularly fabricated, as well as allowing for the maximum amount of space for tenants. With timber being much lighter than concrete, winds became an issue during testing. The researchers found that because the building was as much as 2.5 times lighter as a traditional structure, lateral forces acted on it more like a typical 40- or 50-story building. However, Sidewalks Lab wanted to avoid a hybrid solution that added steel or concrete. A timber structural core, they reported, would have necessitated walls that were five feet thick. Since this was unfeasible given the difficulty to manufacture and the resultant loss of floor space, Sidewalk Labs instead chose to use a cross-brace frame exoskeleton, like those found on many supertall towers. Since the exoskeleton still left the building fairly susceptible to large swaying motions, the team opted to add a 70-ton steel tuned mass damper at the penthouse level. To create a design that was easy and affordable to manufacture offsite with CNC machines, the Sidewalk Labs team created an interlocking kit of parts, including a “floor cassette” which used wood panels, layers of acoustic padding and insulation, and space for plumbing, electrical, and mechanical infrastructure. To make the cassettes work, Sidewalk Labs designed a standardized grid for columns to plug into, which kept everything standardized for easy construction where sequence order becomes more or less irrelevant. The cassettes also feature stone wool, a fibrous structure of minerals, in place of concrete, and can be built in 25 steps. The envelope is also modular, and the standardized metal panel has 40 percent window coverage and space for a balcony can be slotted into. However, to offer more aesthetic possibilities, each building could also be “skinned” to produce various effects, some of which have been speculatively designed by Gensler, such as a faceted skin of waving forms. What this means for Sidewalk Labs’ contentious Toronto waterfront project, which past renderings included designs from Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studios, was not immediately clear. It may mean revisions to the proposed designs of the taller towers, of which renders were first released back in February 2019. Regardless of whether the research is implemented, the model demonstrates a future for building up with timber, providing more sustainable options than the common carbon-intensive glass and concrete construction. Cara Eckholm, associate director of development at Sidewalk Labs, clarified the divide when asked:
“The renderings in the MIDP were illustrative, and do not represent final project design. Similarly, the images posted in the PMX model blog post are used to demonstrate potential variations using different facade materials.”For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit https://techplusexpo.com/events/la/
Snøhetta has been selected by the Wikimedia Foundation for its rebrand. The Foundation, which operates the 19-year-old Wikipedia is looking to update its visual identity, as well as focus their public persona less on the foundation and more on their principal project. In a press release, Snøhetta describes the joint initiative as the “cutting-edge of collaboration in design” and wrote that the firm and the Wikimedia Foundation “will explore how strategic branding and digital design can generate engagement and promote knowledge sharing across cultures and geographies.” A website the two groups have put together claims, in further consultant-speak, that “Snøhetta will meet the Wikimedia brand network in person and online to gather insight and generate concepts that Snøhetta will use as a foundation for design development.” The website will host drafts of new designs as well as suggestions for public comment and contribution, in the Wiki spirit. The Wikimedia Foundation will also be considering new naming conventions for their many interrelated projects, working to center the better-known Wikipedia in order to simplify public communications. A representative for Snøhetta said that while the details are yet to have been hashed out, the firm hopes to “create a brand identity system that supports Wikimedia’s international commitment to ‘setting knowledge free.’” They went on to say that “The goal is to design a new visual identity system that represents Wikipedia and the Wikimedia mission as part of the essential infrastructure of free knowledge in the digital age.” The hope is to release the new “brand system” in the second half of 2020. There is, of course, a Wikipedia page with all the details
The debate over imposing height restrictions for the Snøhetta-designed tower at 50 West 66th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side continues. The preservation group Landmark West is arguing that Extell, the building developer known for its Billionaire’s Row towers along 57th Street, is continuing to illegally use mechanical void space to circumvent height restrictions according to Gothamist. Such voids are meant to hold mechanical equipment and have been, until recently, exempt from maximum floor area caps according to zoning regulations, giving developers leeway to inflate building heights and charge a premium for boosted units. The life of the now-775-foot tall tower began in 2015 when the project was announced at just 262 feet, but the building had swelled to its current height by the time the first renderings were released in 2017. As previously reported in January, Extell was given a 15-day window to scale the design back after pushback from local politicians and community groups. The current design has a total of 176-feet blocked out for mechanical equipment, which was reduced from the original 192-foot void. A recent amendment to the zoning law, however, which counts any mechanical space over 25-feet toward the maximum floor area, will not affect 50 West 66th Street because it was passed after plans were already approved. Activists and politicians alike are now accusing Extell of keeping the majority of the building’s 176 feet of mechanical floors empty of any equipment. Landmark West claims that only 22 percent of the void space will actually be filled with equipment, meaning that the mechanical rooms are predominantly included to boost the building’s overall height. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal have both opposed 50 West 66th Street, which could potentially become the tallest building on the Upper West Side. “These ‘mechanical floors’ are not being occupied by their purported use. They are more than half filler space that will go unused,” said Brewer in a statement to the Board of Standards and Appeals yesterday. “To permit this development to move forward as proposed sets a dangerous message to other developers who will surely seek similarly unjustified mechanical deductions for their buildings.”
WERK Arkitekter and Snøhetta recently released visuals of a new maritime community center on the coast of Esbjerg, Denmark. Lanternen (or “The Lantern” in English) is described by WERK as a building that will “reflect the forces of the sea and create a connection between the city and the water.” As its name suggests, like a lighthouse, Lanternen will sit facing the sea, illuminated from within. “Our vision is to create a building where the rational and the poetic meet in a symbiosis. A symbiosis between the movements of the sea, the migration of light, and the low-key and every day,” wrote Thomas Kock, creative director at WERK on their website, “A symbiosis between spatial experiences and practicality. A symbiosis between the fine and the raw, social and sporting.” The building will create space for multiple water sports clubs, training facilities, and workshop and social spaces which will be broken down into two central areas: The “Hall” and the “Social heart.” The ground-floor Hall has direct contact with water and will provide space for tools and equipment. The Social Heart is located on the floor above and will encourage social activity through a common terrace space. Lanternen was the winning bid for the building’s design competition and was selected for “combining the desire for a fascinating and innovative architecture with high functionality and the intention to create a framework that supports community.” The structure's circular form creates a “house with no backsides,” according to the design team, and is intended to feel open and inclusive to all members of the community whether they are an experienced diver, a student, or passerby. This feeling is emphasized by the building’s many windows and central open-air terrace arranged around its round massing. Clad in timber, the facility is designed to evoke the “geometry and craftsmanship of boats” not while also setting it apart from other buildings in the seaside town. Of course, Snøhetta is no stranger to designing 360-degree timber community buildings that interface with a body of water. The center is slated to open in 2021.
Snøhetta’s vision for an expanded outdoor garden at 550 Madison Avenue—the former AT&T Building in Manhattan’s Midtown East district—was unveiled by developer Olayan Group this week. Set to increase the existing plaza space by 50 percent, the privately owned public space (POPS) will transform what was once considered a dark, narrow plaza stuffed with freestanding retail kiosks into a light, airy, and “welcoming sensory retreat,” according to the architects. Located on the backside of the postmodern office tower between East 55th and East 56th Streets, the glass arcade and four-story annex added in the 1990s will be taken down to make way for the larger, open-air garden. With a delicate glass-and-steel canopy covering the pedestrian space, the overhaul will effectively bring the site closer to the original architects' (Philip Johnson and John Burgee) 35-year-old design intent. Up to 50 new trees will be planted throughout, alongside a wide array of plant varieties including evergreens, and perennials. Ample seating, tables, and low-lighting will be integrated while a cafe with a public restroom will be built adjacent to the building’s west entrance. At just over 21,000-square-feet, the plaza will be the largest of its kind within a five-minute walk. Snøhetta said the overall look for the new POPS is directly connected to Gensler’s newly-released plans for the revamped lobby. “This new garden complements the adjacent tower while drawing upon the vibrancy of the neighborhood and the natural history of the region, offering visitors an immersive respite in the city,” said Michelle Delk, Snøhetta partner and director of landscape architecture, in a press release. Slated to reopen next year, 550 Madison is expected to house as many as 3,000 workers, though when completed in 1984, it was only intended to hold about 800 people across its 37 floors. The Olayan Group, Snøhetta, and Gensler had to go through a controversial approvals process with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to make sure the updated tower’s exterior—which was declared a New York City landmark in mid-2018—and rear plaza respected the history of the entire site.
Svalbard, one of the northernmost and faraway inhabited bodies of land in the world, has become an unlikely architectural destination in recent years. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, a bunker buried deep within the permafrost to protect nearly one million seed species in the event of global catastrophe, was not intended as a tourist attraction when it was first completed by Snøhetta in 2008. Yet, because its mission and dramatically-designed entranceway have caught global attention, Snøhetta was recently called upon once again to design The Arc, a visitors’ center for the building often described as a life raft for biodiversity. The two buildings constituting The Arc have distinctly opposing aesthetic relationships to the surrounding landscape. The entrance building will be a low-slung, modestly proportioned boxy structure clad with mirrors to blend into the surroundings, and will contain basic visitor functions and a cafe. The exhibition hall, on the other hand, will be set within a monolithic, silo-like tower that will make its presence felt from great distances. The tower's striated exterior texture is designed to resemble layers of earth after excavation, recalling the lengths taken to protect the seeds in the nearby vault. The exhibition hall will contain a digital archive detailing the contents of the vault, an auditorium, and a “ceremony room” (set a few degrees warmer than the other rooms, which will house a deciduous tree like those that once commonly grew in Svalbard over 56 million years ago. According to Snøhetta, the tree “is both a symbol of the past and a call to action—a living icon for global warming and our responsibility to preserve the Arctic, and all of nature, for future generations.” Visitors will transition from the first space to the second via a glass-enclosed bridge that will frame views of the landscape while simulating “the experience of going from a familiar entrance into a real vault inside the permafrost of Svalbard,” according to the architects. Construction is expected to begin next year and be completed by 2022.
Civic leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, unveiled renderings yesterday for a $100 million “library of the future” designed by Snøhetta and partners, which is intended to be an anchor for revitalization efforts in uptown Charlotte. The unveiling marked the culmination of a two-year effort to design a new Main Library for the Charlotte Mecklenburg system, on the site of its current building at 310 North Tryon Street. In 2017 the library system selected Snøhetta to serve as the design architect, with Clark Nexsen of Charlotte as the architect of record and brightspot strategy to lead community engagement and space planning efforts. Plans call for a 115,000-square-foot building with five levels above ground, and one below. The above-ground portion will be a curving structure (the firm is no stranger to designing swooping libraries), clad in glass and ceramic, that frames an entrance plaza and provides views to the activity inside. At one end, the library will anchor the corner with a translucent “prow” that cantilevers over the sidewalk. Once inside the timber-clad interior space, a soaring atrium with a spiraling stair will help visitors get their bearings and draw them upwards through the building. There has been a library on the North Tryon Street site since 1903. Library representatives say they hope the new structure, which will replace the current one, will become a major destination for the region. “The new main library will be an architecturally-distinctive, state-of-the-art, technologically-advanced knowledge center and public commons, where everyone in our community can access the resources of a 21st-century library,” said Charlotte Mecklenburg Library CEO Lee Keesler, in a statement. It also will be a “gateway to a re-imagined North Tryon Street corridor and a catalyst for additional redevelopment.” “This will be the jewel of the cultural neighborhood,” Snøhetta senior architect Nick Anderson told The Charlotte Observer. “The library will be unique, but we want it to be of this place.” The renderings show that the building will contain a variety of spaces that are intended to accommodate public gatherings, events, and various employment-oriented services, as well as reading rooms providing access to print and digital materials. There will be a large lobby, cafe, two “immersive” theaters, flexible meeting rooms, and two outdoor terraces. The lower levels will contain most of the pre-function and event spaces, along with a job training center, counseling services, and maker space offerings, including a technology center, computer lab, and recording studios. Levels three and four will house the bulk of the collections, while the top floor will have a large reading room, writer’s studio and porch, administrative offices, and a terrace with views of uptown Charlotte. When Snøhetta was selected to lead the design effort, founding partner Craig Dykers indicated it would be a model in demonstrating how many ways a 21st-century library can serve the public. “Libraries are more popular today than they have ever been, serving a wider range of needs than access to books only,” he said. “The architecture of libraries is also changing, and Charlotte’s new library will lead the way in showing how a city and its core of knowledge can be open, welcoming and intriguing for decades to come.” Funding will come from both public and private sources, with Mecklenburg County committing $65 million to build the main library and an offsite “support services center.” The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation, through its newly announced CommonSpark campaign, is raising $50 million for the new library plus another $20 million for the library system. The Knight Foundation also announced a $10 million donation to the project yesterday. Public and private funding for the project is currently totaled at $135 million. Assuming its fund drive is successful, the library plans to break ground in early 2021 and open the new library in early 2024. This is the second time Snøhetta, Clark Nexsen, and brightspot have collaborated on a library project, after the 2013 James B. Hunt Jr. Library on the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University. Other Snøhetta libraries include the Ryerson University Student Learning Center in Toronto; the New Central Library in Calgary; the recently-opened Charles Library at Temple University in Philadelphia; and the Far Rockaway public library in Queens, New York.
Completed in 1984 as the headquarters of the telecommunications giant AT&T, the postmodern Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed tower at 550 Madison has been the subject of a series of controversial renovations over the last two years. Today, the developer behind the Snøhetta and Gensler revamp of the former AT&T building, The Olayan Group, has released the first look at its new interiors. Designed by Gensler, the new lobby has been rendered in a basic Midtown office building palette of bronze and terrazzo, offset with large expanses of white marble which seem to contrast rather starkly in material, color, and proportion. The basic visual language of the architecture of the original lobby were worked into the new design, making for what architect Philippe Paré claims in a press release is a “powerful expression of the building’s character.” Recessed lighting embedded in the ceiling arcs and cutaways creates a formal distinction with a minimal hand. The lobby is designed to connect to Snøhetta’s proposed garden, which should be visible through the lobby's rear windows (though the outdoor space will only be accessible through side doors). 550 Madison is the youngest building to receive landmark status in New York, though only the exterior is protected; the original interior was demolished early last year. Additionally, the pair of site-specific Dorothea Rockburne murals that were added in 1994 when Sony owned the building—and that some feared would be destroyed or moved—will be preserved in a “sky lobby” seven stories up. The forms in the tiles pictured in the lobby's floor vaguely seem to echo the shapes of the 30-foot-by-29–foot pair of paintings. In addition to Gensler’s lobby renovation, Snøhetta intends to replace the enclosed Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman rear plaza with an expanded garden, open up the Madison Avenue loggias with large glass panes, and reconfigure the current elevator arrangement. This renovation is a more modest proposal after a plan to replace the base of the building’s granite facade with sheer glass was met with backlash. Originally designed for 800 workers, current plans are meant to fit in as many as 3,000. The former AT&T Building is expected to reopen in 2020 as a multi-tenant office tower with LEED Platinum certification and will include ground-floor retail and expanded public space.
Update from Ambrose Property Group at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, September 30: “Ambrose Property Group and Central Indiana Community Foundation, in partnership with Exhibit Columbus, have decided to postpone the Waterside Design Competition Juried Presentations scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 2. Ambrose will not be the long-term owner of Waterside, however, the three organizations hope to work with Hood Design Studio, SCAPE, and Snøhetta to explore opportunities to meaningfully advance important conversations about design for our city. We are thankful for the designers’ work on this project and the important role they play in strengthening arts and culture in Indianapolis.” A former General Motors (GM) stamping plant in Indianapolis was set to become a massive new corporate campus designed by some of the biggest names in architecture. Today, the owner of the site, Ambrose Property Group, announced it is scrapping its plans. AN previously reported that three shortlisted design teams were chosen in May for a competition that would reimagine the 103-acre plot of land, home to the Albert Kahn–designed GM plant formerly known as Crane Bay. The teams included Hood Design Studio with Thomas Phifer and Partners and Arup; SCAPE with SO-IL, Guy Nordenson and Associates, James Lima Planning + Development, Art Strategies, Nelson\Nygaard, and Manuel Miranda Practice; and Snøhetta with Moody Nolan, Arup, HR&A, Art Strategies, and Chris Wangro. Spearheaded by Ambrose in partnership with Exhibit Columbus and the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the redevelopment contest was expected to finalize a vision for what would one day be a new, mixed-use district near downtown Indianapolis. Over 1,300 residential units, 2.75 million square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail, and a hotel would make up the $1.4 billion neighborhood of Waterside. In a letter addressed to the Indianapolis community, Ambrose’s founder and CEO Aasif Bade explained his reason for selling the property:
I’m writing to update the local community of Ambrose’s decision to focus our business on e-commerce and industrial development both in Indianapolis and nationally. We believe that a focused approach on one segment of real estate development is best for our investors, our clients, employees and the communities where we invest. As part of this decision, we plan to pursue the sale of our mixed-use and office projects, including Waterside.The news came as a shock to the designers today, who all presented their design philosophies and approaches to the public in June. The teams were expected to unveil conceptual schemes on October 2 and go into further details about how they would repurpose the old Crane Bay, build an urban plaza surrounding the site, and construct a pedestrian bridge over the White River, connecting Waterside directly to downtown. SCAPE told AN in an email that while its office understands the complexity of financing, real estate, and strategy, the timing of the announcement was “not ideal.”
Our team has fallen in love with the GM Stamping Plant site, and we have so much to offer this process. We’ve enjoyed ideating on and building out ideas about how this place—a 100-acre slab of concrete—could transform by investing in civic life and landscape at its core. We believe the City, local residents, community members, and other stakeholders that have contributed their time and knowledge over many years will remain committed to an engaged and collaborative process. At the same time, everyone is sobered by this setback and acknowledges the challenge ahead.Located in an opportunity zone, the project was a top priority for the city of Indianapolis. The nearly-90-year-old structure has sat empty ever since it closed its doors in 2011 following GM’s declaration of bankruptcy. and the Waterside development was a key part of the city’s failed pitch to host Amazon’s HQ2. A representative from the mayor’s office told The Indianapolis Star that Ambrose’s decision is disappointing, but the city will keep trying to find a way to develop the site. “We intend to use all available tools to ensure that the future of this parcel will live up to the years of planning that has occurred and the ongoing White River Vision Plan,” said Thomas Cook, the mayor’s chief of staff. According to Ambrose, the design competition will still be moving forward next week, but it’s unclear if and how those ideas will be used or whether the participants will be reimbursed for their efforts. The Central Indiana Community Foundation said it hopes the momentum will continue regardless: “Our partnership with Ambrose and Waterside has been unique in the way it connected residents and neighborhoods to community development,” said the Foundation in an email, “and we are proud that the Waterside Design Competition put a spotlight on our city’s current development success and potential by bringing three world-renown and award-winning designers to Indianapolis...CICF will continue to engage the community to ensure Southwest Indianapolis residents are part of the neighborhood’s equitable and inclusive growth.” AN reached out for comment from the other shortlisted firms and will update this story we hear back. Additional reporting by Shawn Simmons.
Snøhetta’s eleventh library has opened its doors for the fall semester at Temple University in Philadelphia. The new Charles Library is just one of many construction projects initiated by a $300 million dollar investment in the 2014 Visualize Temple campus master plan. The 220,000-square-foot, 4-story library boasts more than double the amount of space of its brutalist predecessor, Samuel Paley Library, which was designed in the 1960s by Nolen & Swinburne and will soon be renovated for the School of Public Health. Sited at the intersection of the campus’s major pedestrian pathways (Polett and Liacouras Walk) and one block over from the city’s major thoroughfare (Broad Street), the building acts as a new social and academic hub to not only the school but for the North Philly community at large. Designed and developed in collaboration with Stantec, the building’s base is vertically clad in split-faced granite, a choice that references the campus’s surrounding context. A cedar-clad arched entrance is cut into the stone volume and welcomes visitors to the south side of the building. The swooping wooden arches continue past the glass facade and into the interior where they form a three-story domed atrium, which serves as a zone that's open 24/7 and offers workstations that are available to all Philadelphia residents. An oculus allows light to pour in from the top floor. To accommodate the growing student body of 39,000, the design needed to utilize the latest technologies while reinterpreting the traditional typology of a university research library. In the atrium, at the base of the steel-clad main staircase, is what students and staff lovingly call the “BookBot”—a fifty-seven-foot tall automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) for the library’s collection of over 1.5 million volumes. The BookBot drastically reduced the space needed for book storage (the system takes up just five percent of the total square footage) and thus enabled more areas to be developed for individual study, collaboration, and other academic resources such as digital fabrication, and writing and tutoring labs. While the BookBot frees up shelf space throughout the library's four floors, the book itself hasn’t completely disappeared from sight. Roughly 200,000 volumes can still be accessed in the library’s browsable collection on the fourth floor. On this level, floor-to-ceiling glazing lets in ample sunlight for studying and offers a moment of respite and connection to nature as students can look out onto views of the building’s lushly planted green roof. The 47,300 square-foot roof garden is one of the largest in Pennsylvania and covers over 70 percent of the building’s roof surface with over 15 different species of native flowers and grasses. Designed to meet Philadelphia Water Department guidelines, the roof is a key part of the site’s stormwater management system, which also includes two underground catchment basins that store and process nearly half a million gallons of water. The library is already being filled with students socializing in the ground floor cafe, soaking up some sun in the stacks, and diligently working on their laptops anywhere there is an open seat. Given the notoriety of the firm, it is sure to draw attention from more than those cramming for tomorrow’s exam—the university is expecting over five million visitors to stop by the building annually.
Ford Motor Company released initial renderings today for a major remodel and upgrade of its innovation facilities in Dearborn, Michigan. Over the last two years, the Oslo- and New York-based Snøhetta has been working with the automotive giant to develop a new master plan for its 350-acre site, the longtime home of Ford’s Research & Engineering (R&E) Center. According to the design team, the new master plan will consolidate employees in Southeast Michigan into a centralized, walkable campus where interaction, knowledge sharing, and ideation can occur across teams. This is a huge structural change for the automaker’s global headquarters, where open workspaces and access to outdoor gardens and plazas will be available where it wasn’t before. Since the R&E Center was established under a 1946 master plan by Henry Ford II, off-site structures were acquired afterward across the region as the company grew, ultimately dispersing what was once a core group of workers. Today, that lack of focused community is cost-prohibitive and it's proven difficult for creativity to flourish when thousands of people that work together aren’t physically in the same place. Ford’s new CEO Jim Hackett brought in Snøhetta to change that by designing what they call a “productive architecture and landscape,” 71 percent of which will be open space, the preservation of existing structures, and new, health-focused facilities. A previously announced 10-year plan to overhaul the site served as the inspiration to build upon the company's many real estate projects and garner new talent through design. “The master plan at its core is a renewed commitment to Ford’s employees,” the architecture firm said in a press release, “creating a people-first workplace that will also prepare the company for another century of innovation as it leads the global automotive industry into a new era of disruption.” When the plan is fully realized, the campus will be able to accommodate over 20,000 employees and boost efficiency. Currently, the campus can hold about 11,000 people and is characterized by car-ridden streets, low-ceiling offices, and unwelcoming iron gates that keep the public from seeing what’s inside. To make space for twice as many workers and create transparency within the Dearborn community, Snøhetta has designed a series of four campus "neighborhoods" and shared, pedestrian-friendly streets that open up the site along its main borders: Oakwood Boulevard, Rotunda Drive, and W. Emdale Street. The focal point of the campus will be “The Hub,” a figure-eight shaped structure coming in 2025 that will house the R&E Center and replace the existing product development center on the northwestern corner of campus. The building will be naturally-lit with open floor plans and feature terraces, roof decks, and courtyards. Amplifying the indoor-outdoor experience for employees will be a defining design move of the entire campus. Another neighborhood, “Exchange,” will sit to the right of The Hub as the more public-facing portion on campus. Snøhetta sees it being used for product display, demonstration, and events. “The Hamlet” will feature workspaces surrounded by nature and ecologies native to Southeast Michigan. It could include edible gardens, playscape or discovery gardens, and more. Lastly, “The Retreat” will provide stand-alone pavilions embedded into a larger landscape that can be used as conference rooms for client meetings as well as actual retreats. Early renderings revealed that Snøhetta will utilize different massing techniques to communicate the type of work being done in the new structures. The design team will also preserve existing buildings on campus wherever they can to integrate them into the new project. Hacket is aiming to complete the overhaul as quickly as possible and to keep the project in line with the previous 2016 plan to wrap construction up by 2026. Meanwhile, Ford will continue its work redeveloping Detroit’s Michigan Central Station in Corktown for 5,000 employees, a project designed by Quinn Evans Architects.