A "supertall" building is one which tops out at over 1,250 feet. Right now, there are 18 completed supertall buildings and 21 under construction. Chicago-based architects Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) will break ground on Tuesday on the 1,740-foot-tall CTF Tower in Tianjin, China. It will be the tenth supertall building to begin construction for SOM, the most of any firm in the world. The building is a carefully-crafted design which deliberately merges structural challenges with program and form. The mixed-use tower in the Tianjin Economic Development Area, an area planned for new growth, has retail at the base, topped with offices, 300 residential units, and a 350-room, 5-star hotel. "The functional aspects of program were integrated with the structure," said SOM design partner Brian Lee. "And the form was also developed alongside the structural scheme." Larger floor plates are needed for the office spaces, which are placed near the base of the building. Residential units with smaller floor plate are at the top. The gentle curves of the building and the large, sloped, concrete elements form a "mega-column," which acts as an external frame. Environmental conditions also affected the final design. Wind slots, a porous crown at the top of the tower, and a gradiated opacity toward the higher floors all help to decrease wind loads, and the corners are rounded to prevent a vortex effect on the back side of the building.
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The Durst Organization and the Port Authority have decided to abandon designs for what they once assured the public would be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and architect David Childs of SOM is fighting back. By stripping away the sculptural finishes designed by SOM with artist Kenneth Snelson the developers and the Port may no longer qualify for the tallest title bestowed by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the body that tallies and ranks building heights. In today's New York Times a spokesperson for the Council said that the galvanzized steel replacement would probably be interpreted as an antenna and not a spire and would not qualify as part of the building structure. Besides losing the title, the developers will also arguably be pulling one of the most significant works of art from the site. Douglas Durst told The Wall Street Journal that the spire should have been designed better as it will cost too much to maintain. "It's not the end of the world," he told the paper. To the Times he indicated the utilitarian replacement should work just fine: “I try not to get involved with the aesthetics. We’re here to discuss how it’s built and how it’s maintained.”
Cornell University has named 2005 Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne as architect for the first building at its Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island called the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute. The selection should overshadow some sour grapes that were emanating from Stanford in the past few days regarding their losing bid. Mayne bested an all-star list, including Rem Koolhaas of OMA, Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, Steven Holl, and SOM. The choice of Mayne, whose iconic building 41 Cooper Square still jams traffic at Astor Place, hints that Cornell is looking for a traffic stopper of its own on the East River. "It was a nice list; all the usual talent, but I knew we had a good shot," said Mayne, on his way back to his second home base in LA, "because I could speak intelligently to their three main areas of interest: an innovative educational environment; connective urbanism; sustainability. I can walk the walk." Cornell is developing the site with a proposal prepared by SOM, but there was no mention of the that firm in today's press release, though they remain the master planner for the project. Today's announcement was all about the next step, with Cornell’s dean of architecture, art, and planning, Kent Kleinman praising Morphosis: "No firm is better at turning constraints into creative solutions of astonishing power than Thom Mayne and Morphosis.” As AN reported soon after the Mayor announced the winning bid, SOM's ground work tried to establish that the main 150,000 square foot building would not only be a net-zero building, but, in the words of SOM principal Roger Duffy, "not be an object building." Mayne said that the first meetings on plan and program were only now taking place but he said that "nothing is fixed at this point; it needs to be open-ended." The notion of a prescriptive master plan, he noted, went out with Victor Gruen in the 70s. Morphosis will work with Arup as the engineer on the first building, which the team will design to meet a net-zero energy goal; James Corner is on board for landscape. The south end of the island could likely become an architectural playground, with more RFPs soon going out for the other Tech Campus buildings and the soon-to-be completed Four Freedoms Park by Louis Kahn. Saying the project had come along at just the right moment, Mayne enthused about the opportunities ahead: "The old campus was about the yard or the square. This wants a new paradigm, someplace that is both contained and not contained; simultaneously isolated and completely connected. I love those kind of dualities."
It wasn't a usual trip to the World Trade Center site today as AN segued over to the river to get a glimpse of the Space Shuttle Enterprise's flyover. We caught the shuttle on its second loop at 10:55 on the dot. The pristine prototype shuttle skimmed south over New Jersey on its way round the Statue of Liberty. In all, a very uplifting day when combined with news that the One World Trade will likely surpass the Empire State Building as the city's tallest building by this Monday. Come summer the shuttle will make a barge trip up the river to its new home at the Intrepid Museum. No news yet on speculation that new building across the street from the museum might house the shuttle. Back at the WTC site, construction is humming, with the exception of the 9/11 Museum which stopped after legal wrangling ensued between the museum and the Port Authority over money. Last week, capitalnewyork.com reported subcontractors were slated to be paid by the Port, hinting that an agreement over the disputed $150 million might soon be reached. Since AN last report in February, several developments have appeared. Fumihiko Maki's Tower 4 continues to climb, and the triangular volume at the top has asserted itself above its rhombus base. The pedestal for Richard Rogers Tower 3 now looms over Church Street, though an anchor tenant has yet to be announced. The WTC overlook of the site at Brookfield's World Financial Center is shuttered as work begins on a $250 million retail renovation. The oculus at the Fulton Street Transit Center is now fully formed. Next to Seven World Trade, CUNY's Fitterman Hall by Pei Cobb Freed slapped its brick paneled curtain wall together in what seemed like weeks. The panelized red-brick face provides a disjointed contrast to WTC's valley of glass and steel at its doorstep.
Until about the mid 20th century, there was a tradition for New York’s urban landscape painters to split time between New York and Paris. It was not uncommon for collectors to hang dual streetscapes side by side. It’s surprising then to see the digitally inflected work of Robert Neffson tweak the tradition for the 21st century. Neffson’s paintings of 57th Street and Notre Dame embrace a multimedia studio process for hyperrealistic results. The paintings build on digital photo technology which, through a series of stitched individual images, bring 180 degree perspectives into a single frame. It's similar to the process David Hockney employed at his recent Royal Academy show in London. But while Neffson's extreme perspectives could be perfected in Photoshop, the paintings’ plein air quality lends the stretched sightlines an honesty that digitally stitched panoramas lack. With an awareness of contemporary photography (Gurszky, Struth, and Crewdson), Neffson said he wants to take painting a step beyond, while maintaining an eye for the ordinary. His appreciation for architecture extends to its “anthropomorphic qualities” and how buildings “can be used as expressions of human emotions,” he wrote in an email. Neffson begins by selecting the site, then revisiting it at different times of the day and year. Crowd and cloud formations are studied. Thousands of photos are shot. A comfortable spot is found and the sketching begins. Eventually all the material is taken back to the studio, where 180-degree pan gets finessed into a concise view. “I’m looking for a perfect moment,” he said. “It has to do with significant architecture so that there are associations and not just for me.” Neffson’s work will be on view at Bernarducci Meisel through April 28th.
The biggest new architecture project in Los Angeles just got a much smaller list of candidates. The General Services Administration (GSA) has released the shortlist for the new U.S. Courthouse in LA, a design-build project where architects are partnered with builders. When completed, the building, located on a 3.7 acre lot at 107 South Broadway, will measure 600,000 square feet. It’s projected to cost $322 million and be completed by 2016. The shortlisted teams include: Skidmore Owings and Merrill with Clark Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates with Hensel Phelps Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects with McCarthy NBBJ Architects with Mortensen Shortlisted firms will now be expected to submit plans as part of a Request For Proposals. The winner is expected to be named by this August or September, and design is set to begin by the end of this year. Those who didn’t make the cut included Morphosis, Michael Maltzan Architects, Ehrlich Architects, AC Martin, Johnson Fain Architects, Fentress Architects, Rios Clementi Hale, and Cannon Design. Another exclusion was Perkins + Will, who GSA originally chose to design the project before it stalled several years ago.
And then there were six. Cornell University announced that six firms were selected from a field of 43 contenders to design their new tech campus on Roosevelt Island. SOM, the firm that pushed Cornell over the top in the national competition to build on Roosevelt is still in the running, alongside OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) , Diller Scofidio + Renfro , Morphosis Architects , Steven Holl Architects , and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. SOM will remain on the job to define an overall campus plan. The university is still running with its net-zero plan for the first core building. Residences and other multi-use buildings will follow. A contract with the winning firm is set to be signed in April.
Norma Merrick Sklarek, the first African American woman to become a licensed architect in the country, died on Monday in Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Times reports. Sklarek, a native of Harlem, went to Barnard College before graduating from Columbia's architecture school in 1950. She passed the New York State exam in 1954, becoming the first African American woman to receive her professional architecture license and earning her the nickname "the Rosa Parks of Architecture." She later moved to California where she was turned down for work 19 times before going on to work for SOM, Gruen Associates, Welton Becket, and the Jerde Partnership. Jerde partner Paul Senzaki recalled her ability to provide broad oversight with a personal touch. "While many people can provide administrative guidance, what I recall most was here willingness to spend time with staff and talk with them about their work," Senzanki said in a statement. "In many ways she was an educator/mentor who happened to practice architecture." Sklarek's more notable projects include overseeing staff at Gruen for the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and acting as project director at Welton Becket for LAX Terminal 1. Before joining Jerde in 1989, she co-founded one of the largest all-women architectural firms in the country, Siegel-Sklarek-Diamond. She would go on to become the first African-American woman inducted as a fellow at the AIA. Mabel O. Wilson, an associate professor at Columbia's GSAPP, recalled hearing Sklarek speak Howard University when Wilson was still a student. It was the first time she had seen an architect who was an African American woman. "I wasn’t seeing a reflection of myself in the field, and then there she was," said Wilson. She added that Sklarek's hard work and staying power aligns nicely with the ethos of the profession. "It still takes a lot of tenacity to land where she did and do the work she did at LAX--and that doesn’t matter who you are," she said. The Architect's Newspaper sends our condolences to Sklarek's family, friends, and colleagues.
SOM Chicago has won a competition to design a mixed-use tower in the new Chinese city of Suzhou. Located along a lake front, the tower includes a distinctive void carved out the upper portion of the tower, splitting the floorplates in half to better serve hotel uses. Offices will fill the lower, larger floorplates. "We've been doing these kinds of mixed-use towers since Hancock," said Ross Wimer, a partner at SOM Chicago. "Instead of tapering the tower, we've carved away a slot to bring fresh air and light into the building." On the upper floors the building uses the cooler outside air for natural ventilation, reducing the building's overall energy load. SOM's sustainability group estimates the building will use 60% less energy than is typically used in a similar tower in the US. "It's about figuring out ways for tall buildings to stop fighting the environment," Wimer said. The silvery curtainwall includes both glass and stainless steel, with the south-facing wall using more opaque metal and the other sides more transparent glass. The project also includes an L-shaped commercial building and a large public plaza. "In China, developers often build out the entire site, but we felt it was important to include a public space," Wimer said. The 75 story, approximately 2.9 million square foot tower is expected to be complete in 2017.
SOM returns to LA with a new office to be led by Michael Mann, Paul Danna, and Jose Palacios, all coming en masse from AECOM. The new studio will start out with ten to 40 people in a temporary office, with plans to eventually find a permanent home in downtown LA. The Boston Society of Architects announced the departure of executive director Margaret Wigglesworth. Wigglesworth, who only assumed the ED role in February 2011 and oversaw BSA's move to a new home, will be returning to the commercial real estate sector. In Chicago, Crain's reports that FGB, an architecture firm based in Oak Brook, has acquired Deerfield-based SRBL, specialists in schools and institutional work, to create a 95-person strong office. On January 18, John Hatfield will join Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens as executive director. Hatfield leaves the New Museum of Contemporary Art, where he has served as deputy director since 2008. Fore Solutions, a green building consulting firm, has joined Thorton Thomasetti to create the Thorton Thomsetti Building Sustainability practice area, to be led by Gunnar Hubbard.
AN has heard on good authority that three high level architects from AECOM have left that firm to open a Los Angeles office of SOM. SOM's major west coast presence has long been in its San Francisco office. This story has been updated, please click here to read the full story.
Multiple factors helped the Cornell/Technion team win what is shaping up to be Mayor Bloomberg’s favorite super-scale legacy project. Stanford, the only real competition, withdrew; a windfall of a $350 million donation blew in; local Cornell alums pulled out the stops with petitions. High on that list is SOM’s preliminary design proposing a net-zero building and a permeable landscape, developed with Field Operations, woven in, over, and into multiple structures lending an interactive and public character to the entire campus. This wholly sustainable, radically accessible design plan has become a signature of the project as the city ambitiously strives to become an East Coast high tech start-up incubator bar none. And yet it is unclear if SOM will remain on the job. Amidst rumors that the same Cornell alumni who helped get the prize now want to see a Cornell architect get the job, Cornell administrators close to the project were vague when asked if the SOM team would be seeing the project through. “SOM has served us fantastically well,” said Kent Kleinman, the dean of Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP). “The next phase will start immediately and proceed according to our standard RFP process. Our facilities department has to get its arms around the whole thing, but it’s fair to say, it’s wide open. The last word has not been spoken.” When asked about SOM’s response to news of the win, the dean said he had not spoken to the architects as of four days after the award was announced. There is no time to waste given that Cornell has made a commitment to have a completed design in hand by 2015 and the campus built by 2017. Last week, SOM partner Roger Duffy spoke of Cornell/Technion’s success as the result of strong ideas. The challenge for the architects, he said, was “to design high flexibility and remove all impediments to collaboration and the flow of information. We emphasized lateral connections, rather than stacked, in order to mimic how the tech industry likes to work. Facebook and Google have warehouse set-ups where everyone is on a single level, offices are open. We wanted to communicate that sense of open information exchange and make it instantly apparent in the design.” Such an approach implies huge floor plates that would have eaten up the site, eviscerated public space and blocked daylight. And so the design team came up with the idea of a multi-story plinth with few walls or barriers and with, as Duffy put it, “the landscape rolled up and over so it’s possible to actually walk the building.” The proposal to be one of the largest net-zero buildings in the country would require aggressive sustainable gestures, starting but not ending with the largest photovoltaic array in the city. “This will not be an object building,” Duffy said. Whether it will be an SOM building, at this point, remains to be seen.