Rotterdam Centraal Station's relationship to the existing urban fabric called for different treatments of its north and south facades.To call the commission for a new central railway station in Rotterdam complicated would be an understatement. The project had multiple clients, including the city council and the railway company ProRail. The program was complex, encompassing the north and south station halls, train platforms, concourse, commercial space, offices, outdoor public space, and more. Finally, there was the station’s relationship to Rotterdam itself: while city leaders envisioned the south entrance as a monumental gateway to the city, the proximity of an historic neighborhood to the north necessitated a more temperate approach. Team CS, a collaboration among Benthem Crouwel Architekten, MVSA Meyer en Van Schooten Architecten, and West 8, achieved a balancing act with a multipart facade conceived over the project’s decade-long gestation. On the south, Rotterdam Centraal Station trumpets its presence with a swooping triangular stainless steel and glass entryway, while to the north a delicate glass-house exterior defers to the surrounding urban fabric. Team CS, which formed in response to the 2003 competition to design the station, began with a practical question: how should they cover the railroad tracks? Rotterdam Centraal Station serves Dutch Railways, the European High Speed Train network, and RandstadRail, the regional light rail system. Team CS wanted to enclose all of the tracks within a single structure, but they came up against two problems. First, the client team had budgeted for multiple freestanding shelters rather than a full roof. Second, this part of the project was designated a design-construct tender in which the winning contractor would have a high degree of control over the final design. To work around both issues, Team CS turned to an unusual source: agricultural buildings. “We started to come up with a project built from catalog materials, so efficient and so simple that any contractor would maybe think, ‘I’m going to build what they draw because then I can do a competition on being cheap, and then I don’t need to [reinvent] the wheel,’” explained West 8’s Geuze. For the spans, they chose prelaminated wood beams meant for barns and similar structures from GLC. They designed the five-acre roof as an oversized Venlo greenhouse. It comprises 30,000 laminated glass panels manufactured by Scheuten. Integrated solar cells, also provided by Scheuten, produce about one-third of the energy required to run Rotterdam Centraal Station’s escalators. The north facade of the station continues the glass house theme. “We [took] the roof and we pull[ed] it over to the facade and made the entire elevation out of that,” explained Geuze. “What is on the roof becomes vertically the same. In plan you see a zigzag sort of meandering facade.” By day, the glass reflects the nineteenth-century brick architecture characteristic of the Provenierswijk neighborhood in which the station is located. At night, the relatively modest entrance seems almost to fade into the sky, except for a slice of white LED lettering over the passenger portal. Rotterdam Centraal Station’s south facade, by contrast, is self consciously extroverted. The entryway, which spans 300 feet over the subway station, was given a “very sculptural identity,” said Geuze, with a triangular mouth framed by stainless steel panels. ME Construct welded the 30-foot-long panels one to another to create a non-permeable surface. Within the steel surround are horizontal glass panels (Scheuten) through which the vertical interior structural beams are visible. “This plays beautifully with the station because the roof makes a triangle. The horizontal and vertical lines are a beautiful composition within,” said Geuze. Two reminders of the 1957 central station, demolished to make way for the new iteration, make an appearance on the south facade. The first is the old station clock. The second is the historic sign, restored in LED. “They are in a beautiful font, blue neon letters,” said Geuze. “We put them very low on the facade, the letters. The font became a part of the identity.” While its preponderance of glass and stainless steel marks it as a contemporary creation, Rotterdam Centraal Station was inspired by historic precedents, like Los Angeles’ Union Station and the European railway stations of the 1800s. Geuze spoke of the interior’s warm material palette, including a rough wood ceiling by Verwol that bleeds onto the building’s south facade. “We thought we could learn a lot [from history] instead of making what is totally the [norm] today with granite from China,” he said. “We have to make a station which is part of this tradition of cathedrals, where the use and aging is relevant and interesting.”
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When Alvin Huang and his colleagues at Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA) saw the brief for Volvo’s “Switch to Pure Volvo” competition, they decided to give the auto manufacturer more than it had asked for. The competition, which was organized by The Plan magazine, asked architects to design an iconic, yet portable, pavilion for the new Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid electric car. SDA came up with the Pure Tension pavilion, a steel-frame structure that not only assembles in an hour, but is small enough to fit in the trunk of the car. And the pavilion doesn’t just showcase the car: it also charges it, thanks to 252 lightweight flexible photovoltaic panels incorporated into the structure’s mesh fabric surface. “[We were] really thinking about the potential for this to be more of an application than an object,” Huang said. SDA’s Pure Tension pavilion beat out 150 other entries to win the competition last spring, and has since begun a 9-month promotional tour with the car brand, to culminate in an appearance at The Plan’s annual Perspective event next summer. A product of SDA’s ongoing research into dynamic mesh relaxation, the Pure Tension pavilion comprises a CNC bent aluminum frame with a two-piece vinyl encapsulated polyester mesh membrane. The photovoltaic panels are arrayed within an applied black-on-white graphic that accentuates the pavilion’s curves. SDA utilized intensive solar incidence analysis to place the panels for maximum exposure to sunlight, while an integrated Maximum Power Point Tracking controller automatically disables underperforming cells to optimize power collection. The power from the panels goes to an attached battery pack, which in turn delivers a steady charge to the car. The entire system weighs only 150 pounds and fits into two 65-inch-by-15-inch-by-15-inch rifle cases. Huang sees the Pure Tension pavilion as a meditation on how the move away from fossil fuels might transform car culture. “It’s more a vision of the future, much the way a concept car is,” he said. “It’s not meant to be a production item, more like an attitude being taken, where we want to explore.” Huang highlighted two features of the pavilion in particular. First, there’s the fact that the pavilion simultaneously charges and shades the care. “One of the problems with charging electric cars is that charging generates heat,” he explained. “You have to put them in the sun.” The Pure Tension pavilion protects the Volvo V60 hybrid from overheating while harnessing solar energy for later use. In addition, because the pavilion sends energy from the photovoltaic panels to a battery pack, it doesn’t need to be attached to the car in order to do its work. “In theory,” Huang said, “you can set up the pavilion, drive away, come back, and charge [your car]...as opposed to setting it up and getting three minutes of charge because you’re stopped for three minutes.” The pavilion was designed by SDA with structural engineering help from Buro Happold Los Angeles. It was fabricated by Fabric Images in Chicago, with custom photovoltaic panels by Texas company Ascent Solar.
Last July, AN covered the story of SOAK, a portable pop-up spa designed by engineering group ARUP and art and design studio Rebar. Inspired by a healthy hedonist ideology, this urban rain-water and solar-powered ecological bathhouse seeks to reclaim everyday wellness and develop a model that works without heavy consumption of resources. The project has been under development for years now, but has now finally launched a Kickstarter campaign. It will only be funded if at least $240,000 is pledged by January 1, 2014. (Rendering: Courtesy REBAR)
This past weekend, a jury of architects, engineers, and market experts scored Team Austria’s home entry as the winner of the United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, a student design competition aimed at educating and encouraging thought about the affordability and efficiency of solar homes. As AN reported, the Team Austria private residential design is environmentally sensitive and easily adaptable, chosen for its overall energy efficiency, attractiveness of design, cost, and comfortable living conditions. However, of the 19 designs by collegiate teams from the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Austria presented in Irvine, California, the public had a dissenting opinion about the Decathlon winner. The People’s Choice Award vote went to UrbanEden from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; this concrete and glass-based modern structure was the majority’s favorite home entry. UrbanEden is a four-room home designed for ease of indoor to outdoor flexibility. It is envisioned as existing within the urban city of Charlotte and has been designed with materials for noise reduction as well as energy efficiency. The structure is built of geopolymer cement concrete, which the team claims is “one of the first-known uses of a geopolymer mix in a building envelope.” Inside its walls are a series of tubes circulating cool water to remove heat inside the house without a compressor or refrigerant. The entire south wall is constructed of glass windows and leads to an exterior patio that can be covered, weather permitting, by a retractable photovoltaic panel roof. The patio has a vertical garden to provide greenery, privacy, and a potential food source. With these innovative technologies, the entry won third place in the Solar Decathlon Engineering Contest. However, in aesthetics, the home also makes an impression. Light-filled rooms and the easy accessibility to an outdoors terrace provide a balance of nature within an urban environment. With the beauty and comfort of its design, the DOE believes that UrbanEden earns its People’s Choice Award. Solar Decathlon comments: “UrbanEden is a house people can imagine themselves living in. A house that could easily become a home.” All Images Courtesy DOE Solar Decathlon.
Engineering group ARUP and art and design studio Rebar have announced a design for a rainwater-harvesting, solar-powered, portable pop-up spa that receives every watt of energy it requires from the sun. The energy comes from heat exchangers and efficient equipment to heat and power the “healthy hedonist” experience called SOAK. The shipping container-spa conserves resources with thoughtful engineering and provides the core experience of the conventional bathhouse in a microcosm. The project, a prime example of tactical urbanism, joins personal wellness with social vitality while combining the most intelligent form of energy and alternative resources. Half the water necessary to fill the tubs is sourced from rainwater, and all the energy requirements for tub and sauna heat are supplied by a solar water heater and photovoltaic cells, permitting SOAK to restore surplus power to the electrical grid. Greywater from tubs, showers, and sinks is routed through water garden cells and infiltrated completely onsite. SOAK, whose founder and creative innovator Nell Waters hired ARUP and Rebar to finalize the design intended to activate urban sites and serve as a short-term establishment for redevelopment sites, is entering an important fundraising and site-raising stage. SOAK is searching for a developing parcel with an 18-36 month vacancy window in the Bay Area. While parcels await the go-ahead for development approvals and funding, the spa temporarily gives the site a purpose by helping the site “stay on the map” and reinforcing visitor habits. Once the site has been developed, SOAK will move to a new transient location.
University of Pennsylvania architecture student Jonathan Dessi-Olive, this year's winner of the Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) Travel Fellowship, and three of his colleagues are taking an ancient building technology to Kenya this summer to demonstrate a sustainable alternative to wood construction, which contributes to the devastating deforestation problem in the region. The project, a hybrid wind- and solar-powered radio station on Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria, will introduce local craftspeople to the 600-year-old technique of timbrel vaulting, a system that uses thin clay tiles to create a geometrically-complex and structurally strong building. Dessi-Olive will put his $10,000 RAMSA Travel Fellowship toward the project and is working with three of his PennDesign M.Arch classmates, Kelly Berger, Kordae Henry, and Erik Leach, to research, design, and construct the radio station. Kordae Henry and Kelly Berger were also awarded the the Van Alen Travel Fellowship of $4,500 this year that will also help fund the project. The team is currently crowd-fundraising another $10,000 to help build the radio station. The Students will conduct their research on site this summer from June to August. "The research is centered around an investigation of timbrel (Catalan) tile vaulting, a centuries-old Mediterranean construction technique that has renewed interest due to its formal flexibility and ability to construct geometrically complex surfaces and structures," Dessi-Olive said in a statement. The radio station will be operated by Organic Health Response, an NGO that operates Ekaito Kiona Suba Youth Radio serving the 20,000 inhabitants of Mfangano Island. The station, powered by a hybrid wind- and solar-powered 500 watt FM transmitter, broadcasts health information to the rural community. Track the students' progress on their blog or contribute to the project on Indiegogo.
At a DeLab (Design East of La Brea) Tour this Saturday, Los Angeles-based firm Lettuce Office shared the epic story of its new solar array for LA's Occidental College. The 1 megawatt installation, made up of 4,886-panels, follows the contours of its hilly site, with its angled panels raised just two or three feet off the ground. To guard against sliding, each set of panels had to be imbedded into the earth via concrete-supported columns. The array was supposed to open two years ago, but infighting at the university over the ambitious design caused considerable delay. In the end, Lettuce's plans won out, and now the handsome array supplies 11 percent of the university's power. And despite initial objections (the firm was at one point "shouted out of the room," explained principal Kara Bartelt), the $6.8 million project is now becoming a selling point for both the school and its builder, Martifer Solar. "It represents a new paradigm for arrays as architectural objects that, like buildings, are expected to contribute aesthetically to their environment," noted Occidental President Jonathan Veitch. See a live view of the solar field on the university's solar cam, here.
New federal solar incentives should be bringing a lot more solar energy to the west. Unveiled yesterday, the government's strategy calls for solar projects on 285,000 acres of federal land in six western states, and the opening of 19 million acres of California's Mojave Desert for power plants that could generate up to 24,000 megawatts by 2030. The 17 "solar zones" were chosen because they avoided major environmental, cultural, or other conflicts, a move that has been praised by several environmental groups. Incentives include lower land lease payments and reduced bond costs, and the plan is expected to be finalized in about a month. "It's hard to overstate what a significant milestone this is for our administration," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the LA Times.
President Obama's Alma Mater Occidental College is finishing up work on a $6.8 million, 1-megawatt ground-mounted solar array. When finished this spring it will be one of the largest ground-mounted arrays in Los Angeles, generating about 11 percent of the College's annual electrical usage. Led by physics professor Daniel Snowden-Ifft, the array's 4,886 panels will be mounted on top of shade structures in a campus parking lot and on a nearby hillside.
On October 1st, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled the winner of the 2011 Solar Decathlon at West Potomac Park in Washington D.C., bringing together innovative solar-powered prototype residences designed and built by international student teams from universities and colleges. This year's champion, the University of Maryland's WaterShed house, excelled in a variety of then ten metrics used to judge the houses including affordability, energy balance, hot water, and engineering. The WaterShed house included living features such as a waterfall providing humidity control, an edible green wall for year-round produce, and artificial-filtration wetlands. The University of Maryland also won the architecture contest outright. Appalachian State won the 2011 Solar Decathlon People's Choice Awards for their net-zero energy Solar Homestead. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu lauded this year’s designs as imaginative, practical, and inspiring. "The houses on display blend affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. These talented students are demonstrating to consumers the wide range of energy-saving solutions that are available today to save them money on their energy bills," he said. Purdue University's InHome, taking second prize, incorporated an air-to-air heat pump; Empowerhouse by Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology relied on a green roof and an energy recovery ventilation system while Middlebury College’s Self-Reliance house rethought the New England farmhouse through technology such as stack effect ventilation and triple-paned windows. New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington’s First Light home recycled sheep wool for insulation and included a clothes-drying cupboard and used solar-powered hot water.
Tiny Homes. The average size of an American home has been decreasing since 2009 (to at 2,392 SF), the Wall Street Journal reported. With financial and environmental concerns, many homeowners are down-sizing. The book Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings examines dwellings under 800 feet, such as the above 215-square-foot house in Belgium. Artificial Leaf. Researchers at MIT have created an artificial leaf that uses sunlight to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen. The device is made of silicon, that is coated with a cobalt catalyst on one side, and a nickel catalyst on the other. When dropped in water, the cobalt separates oxygen and the nickel side hydrogen. The next step: scientists are working on a way to capture the gasses. More at Inhabitat. Sky Sculptures. Brookline, Massachusetts artist Janet Echelman uses Indian fisherman weaving techniques to create ethereal neon nets that float in urban sky-scapes. Check out images of her work, that resembles the translucent fish of the coral reef at Artist a Day. Shrouded Silos. In Omaha, Nebraska, the educational nonprofit Emerging Terrain has wrapped grain silo elevators in giant 80 by 20 feet banners that focus on food and agricultural issues. More at Planetizen.
Solar-Powered Fun. New York City’s first solar merry-go-round just opened at the South Street Seaport, offering free rides to kids through September 7th. GE's Carousolar is powered by 100 solar panels made of ultra thin semiconductors able to withstand extreme humidity and UV ray exposure. The green fun isn't just for kids—GE also provided solar-powered cell phone charging stations for adults around the carousel, reported Inhabitat. Sun-Filled Fasting. According to Dubai’s top cleric Mohammed al-Qubaisi, residents of the Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest skyscraper, will have to wait a few extra minutes to break their fast during Ramadan. Muslims living above the tower's 80th floor should fast two additional minutes after dusk while those above the 150th floor wait an additional three minutes, The Guardian reported. Al-Qubaisi explained that just like early Muslims living in the mountains, the residents of the highest floors must adjust their fast due to the extended visibility of sunlight. #ThingsNotToDoOnPublicTransportation. Public Transportation is trending on Twitter and the end result is a humorous user guide to transit etiquette. Transportation Nation rounded up some of their family-friendly favorites. LEGO Gate. While not yet officially announced, European blogs have been abuzz that the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin will be the next in LEGO's Architecture line of miniature real buildings. Unbeige revealed the series’ designer Adam Reed Tucker developed the Brandenburg model, representing the 2nd building outside of the US (the first was SOM’s Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai).