Virginia Tech students demonstrate a light touch with glass and steel pavilion.The undergraduate architecture students enrolled in Virginia Tech's design/buildLAB begin each academic year with an ambitious goal: to bring a community service project from concept through completion by the end of the spring semester. In addition to the usual budget and time constraints, the 15 students taking part in the course during the 2013-2014 school year faced an additional challenge. Their project, a public pavilion for Clifton Forge Little League in the tiny hamlet of Sharon, Virginia, was entirely lacking in contextual cues. "It was interesting because our previous design-build projects have been downtown, with lots of context," said Keith Zawistowski, who co-founded and co-directs design/buildLAB with his wife, Marie. "Instead, we had a pristine, grassy field with a view of the mountains. We joke that this is our first group of minimalists." The students' understated solution—three geometric volumes unified by the consistent use of a vertical sunscreen—turns the focus back to the pavilion's surroundings with a restrained material palette of concrete, glass, and steel. Design/buildLAB assigned a separate structure to each element of the Sharon Fieldhouse program, nestling the open-air public pavilion between glass boxes containing the restrooms and concessions kitchen. Different roof heights distinguish the spaces, yet a common material vocabulary and their arrangement along a single horizontal axis allows them to be read as a single object. "The students describe the field house as a linear incision through the site," said Zawistowski. "Basically it's just light cut through the green landscape." Because Sharon Fieldhouse is intended for seasonal use, the students focused on maximizing environmental performance for the warmer months of the year. "Everything's about cooling and ventilation," said Zawistowski. A no-energy ceiling fan cools the kitchen, and tempered laminated white glass helps cut solar gain inside the enclosed areas. "The glass has a translucent quality, so that the spaces are bathed in even light, eliminating the need for electrical lights during the day," explained Zawistowski. The external sunshade, comprising vertical steel plate elements painted white, serves both conceptual and practical ends. "The shade screen is about intimacy and privacy—not just under the open-air pavilion but in the enclosed spaces," said Zawistowski. "The elements vary in density. They're tighter together toward the more private parts of the building." At the same time, larger gaps between the screen's members on the east side of the pavilion welcome in the morning sun, while to the west the steel bars draw together to provide afternoon shade. The screen simultaneously functions as skin and structure. "In most cases, the sunshade is tacked on. In this case it's part and parcel of the architecture," observed Zawistowski. Wider steel bars take the weight of the building's roof, and help conceal downspouts. "Everything is hidden there in the screen," said Zawistowski. "We brought a new group of students to the field house and asked them if they could figure out how rainwater could get off the roof. They didn't know." The students prefabricated portions of the pavilion at Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus, panelizing the screen members and roofing. "One thing that bothers us in design-build education is that multiple generations tend to work on one project," said Zawistowski. "It's important for us that the same group sees the implications of what they design, so we rely really heavily on prefabrication." On campus, he added, students are able to take full advantage of the university's resources. Once on site in Sharon, the students completed assembly in just a couple of weeks. Given the fact that his students conceived of, fundraised for, programmed, planned, designed, and built Sharon Fieldhouse in less than ten months, it's no surprise that Zawistowski refers to the supernatural when he talks about the project. But when he brings up hocus-pocus, it is as much about the pavilion's aesthetic impression as it is about the speed with which it was brought into being. "We say that it's put together with magic," he mused. "All the connections are hidden—everything's just light and shadow."
Posts tagged with "Steel":
Architects deliver a North American first with Warren Woods Ecology Field Station.When Belfast, Maine–based architecture firm GO Logic presented the University of Chicago's Department of Ecology and Evolution with three schematic designs for the new Warren Woods Ecology Field Station, the academics decided to go for broke. Despite being new to Passive House building, the university was attracted to the sustainability standard given the laboratory's remote location in Berrien County, Michigan. "We presented them with three design options: one more compact, one more aggressive formally," recalled project architect Timothy Lock. The third option had an even more complicated form, one that would make Passive House certification difficult. "They said: 'We want the third one—and we want you to get it certified,'" said Lock. "We had our work cut out for us." Thanks in no small part to an envelope comprising a cedar rain screen, fully integrated insulation system, and high performance glazing, GO Logic succeeded in meeting the aesthetic and environmental goals set down by the university, with the result that the Warren Woods facility is the first Passive House–certified laboratory in North America. Warren Woods' envelope begins at ground level, with a shallow foundation utilizing GO Logic's patented L-shaped EPS insulation around the edges, and a continuous air-seal layer between the foam and the slab. "The system allows us to pour consistent slab-on-grade without any thermal bridging," explained Lock. The sealing layer connects into the wood stud wall backed by graphite-impregnated Neopor insulation. The architects chose the insulation for its high R-value, knowing that they would need to compensate for the relatively large amount of surface area dedicated to the exterior wall. Pro clima one-way breathable building paper allows the building to expel moisture. GO Logic installed a rain screen of Eastern White Cedar vertical gap siding sourced from the Upper Peninsula "because of the aesthetic goals of the client," said Lock. "They desired a contemporary aesthetic but also [the look of] a Midwestern barn." The architects planned the interior space and allotted glazing judiciously, locating the laboratory on the north side of the building. Its position, under the cantilever over the entry, maximally reduces solar gain—an important consideration given the heat generated by the equipment inside. The classroom space, on the other hand, is positioned on the building's south side, punctuated by a long strip of Kneer-Südfenster glazing. "We are highly critical of windows that are available domestically," said Lock. "The big drawback with North American windows is that the tradeoff for a higher R-value is significantly reduced solar heat gain." Instead, the firm imports Kneer-Süd's products directly from Germany. "In Northern Europe they know how to get all the heat from the sun that they can," he observed. "We also love the way they look." The windows and doors are fully integrated into the air-seal layer using one-way breathable tapes from SIGA, imported (like the pro clima paper) through 475 High Performance Building Supply in Brooklyn. A custom-fabricated stainless steel accordion screen shields the classroom-side glazing from both intruders and the sun. "It's good for security—the university likes that," said Lock. "But the screen was also big for us to control the amount of heat that enters during the summer months and shoulder seasons." The idea, he explained, is that when classes are in session and the weather is nice, the occupants can throw open the doors. When only the laboratory is in operation, the closed screen will cut back on heat gain. In addition, the steel mesh "became something that was also a really exciting design feature," said Lock. "It had a great effect—not just cooling the space, but also softening the natural light."
San Antonio firm transforms vacant industrial building into sunlit workspace.Dissatisfied with their two-story office, San Antonio architecture practice Overland Partners recently went looking for a new home. They found it in an unexpected place: a long-vacant plumbing supply warehouse within the city's burgeoning arts district. The 1918 Hughes Plumbing Warehouse offered the firm exactly what they wanted—a large open floor plan—in an architecturally refined package. The timber-framed, brick-clad building "is simple," said project architect Patrick Winn, "but it's really elegant and beautiful when you're able to look at it." The problem was that years of disuse had left their mark. "When we first viewed it, it was really far gone," recalled Winn. The original windows had been broken up, and the roof had flooded. Undaunted, the architects took on an extensive renovation project, with the result that today the former plumbing distribution center is a boon not just to Overland, but to the neighborhood as a whole. Prior to renovation, Hughes Warehouse was entirely encased in a double-width brick wall, except for a few garage door openings and two levels of clerestory windows. While the clerestories, approximately 16-20 inches and 20-25 inches in width, provided a good dose of daylight to the interior, they did not provide views out, nor did they facilitate the transition from parking lot to studio. "At Overland we really enjoy blurring the line between the outdoor, natural realm and the indoor, built realm," said Winn. "Right from the get-go we said: we have to cut a courtyard into the building and elongate that entry sequence." Overland carved out approximately 2,000 square feet of space for the new courtyard, which is faced with a custom glass and steel curtain wall. The transparent opening floods the office interior with light and frames views for the occupants. It has also become a de facto community space. "What's been nice is that runners' groups and cycling groups are starting to use our courtyard as a hub for activity," said Winn, who notes that live music and other events at a neighboring coffee shop are an additional draw. "It's brought a lot of life and energy into our space from the courtyard." To secure the courtyard after hours, the architects designed custom steel gates to replace the original, graffiti-covered garage doors. To tie-in to the warehouse's arts-district location, and to pay homage to the graffiti, Overland looked to Jackson Pollock for inspiration. They pixelated photographs on Photoshop before transferring the file to AutoCAD and sending the pattern on to Rivercity Industries, who laser-cut the design into the doors. The doors themselves were fabricated by Overland Workshop. "From the exterior, especially when the lights are on, when you drive by, there's almost a twinkling effect," said Winn of the perforated gates. "They're really neat." The architects punched additional windows into the remaining brick facade. "We decided to honor the old brick building," said Winn. "Any new insertion is done with steel and glass." To mitigate solar gain, the new windows are extruded about a foot on the east side of the building, and about two feet on the west. The clerestories and courtyard curtain wall are equipped with automated shades. Though the original steel frames around the clerestory windows would only accept 1/4-inch laminated safety glass, the new windows feature one-inch-thick high performance glass. Additional sustainability measures include a complete board insulation system over the roof. "We loved having brick on the interior, so what we couldn't do there in terms of insulation, we made up for on the roof," explained Winn. "We over-insulated it." A rooftop solar setup offsets about 60 percent of the office's energy consumption. In addition, the architects re-used original materials wherever possible. They built the interior stairs out of old joists, and the contractor saw-cut discarded concrete into pavers for the abutting alley. Even the brittle roof decking found a second life as board forms for the building's cast-in-place concrete elements. The Hughes Warehouse building has exceeded the architects' expectations in terms of bringing the office back together, said Winn. "It's done wonders for us from the standpoint of office culture. People seem to really love working here—it's not a place that's a drag to work in, it's very comfortable." He noted that in less than two years the firm has grown from just over 40 members to about 70, and recalled several recent events, including art shows and a courtyard holiday party, held in the renovated space. "I have to say that Overland's been elevated to a whole other level."
Installation investigates the future of facade design and fabrication.Unlike some student projects, AAC Textile-Block v2.0 was shaped by both practical and speculative concerns. In back-to-back courses at Pratt, undergraduates designed and fabricated a prototype section of a screen wall system made from autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC). Co-taught by Lawrence Blough and Ezra Ardolino, the design studio and prototyping seminar encouraged students to look beyond their computer screens to real-world constraints including block size and light and air circulation. "The idea was that we wanted to make something that has an application later on," said Blough. "It was more than a run-of-the-mill digital fabrication project," added Ardolino. "It was really a comprehensive fabrication project." Each student in the design studio created a scheme for a four-story facade comprising modules cut from standard 8-by-8-by-24-inch AAC bricks donated by Aercon AAC (additional funding was supplied by the Office of the Dean of the School of Architecture). All of the assemblies were required to be self-supporting; some students designed them to be structural or to act as a weather barrier as well. With help from structural engineer Robert Otani and facade consultant Erik Verboon, both of whom teach at Pratt, the students explored their designs using Rhino and wire-cut foam models before CNC-milling prototype wall assemblies from high-density foam. During the following semester, Blough and Ardolino's seminar moved into design-development. Again with Otani's assistance, the class modified one of the designs generated in the studio for fabrication. Among the issues the seminar students addressed was the balance between uniqueness and repetition in the final assembly. "Every block could have been unique, but then there's a question of whether or not it's more efficient to incorporate repetition," said Ardolino. "The students solved that one: they figured out how they could set up the system to be somewhat repetitive." The assembly as built contains 96 blocks of 20 different types. "The earlier stuff I'd done was trying to use as much off-the-shelf material as I could," said Blough. "Here we decided to really push it, and to take on more of the ideas of mass customization." Students milled the AAC modules from 8-by-8-by-12-inch half-bricks using a reconditioned auto-industry robot at Timbur, Ardolino's computer-aided design and fabrication studio. After considering their options, the team settled on an "in the round" strategy, in which the tool makes parallel passes around the Z axis of each block. The blocks were held to the table using custom-milled high-density urethane foam jigs. By working from the largest module to the smallest module, the students required only two jigs. "As the block got smaller, more and more of the jig got eaten away during milling—like a palimpsest," observed Ardolino. While Ardolino managed the off-site fabrication, Blough oversaw assembly in the School of Architecture lobby. Students volunteered their time between classes to lay courses of the milled blocks, using a high performance polyurethane construction adhesive in place of mortar. Slotted steel plates located two courses from the top and bottom of the 10-foot 8-inch by 4-foot prototype accept 1/4-inch rods, which also pass through channels milled into the faces of pairs of blocks. Thinner, staple-like steel rods provide horizontal reinforcement every fourth course. When the installation was up, the assembly team, realizing the floor was uneven, pushed it into plumb before shimming it and re-adjusting the tension on the rods. Though the installation is presently unsealed, Blough and Ardolino are investigating an epoxy-like coating that would protect the blocks from contact damage without obscuring the tool paths. "We like the tool paths—they make it look like dressed stone," said Blough. Though the multi-semester project was designed as a hands-on learning experience for the undergraduates, the professionals involved benefited as well. "I like the idea of this cross-pollination between what goes on in my office and in Ezra's office, and that we can then bring it back to the studio and really push it," said Blough. "It was really liberating for me to take it to this whole other level with Ezra and the students, because you have all these great minds working on it."
Illuminated steel pavilions mimic Chinese peaks.The hillside site of Fengming Mountain Park, in Chongqing, China, presented Martha Schwartz Partners with both a practical challenge and a source of inspiration. Asked by Chinese developer Vanke to design a park adjacent to the sales office for a new housing development, the landscape architecture and urban planning firm quickly gravitated toward the metaphor of a mountain journey. "That's why in the plans you see a zig zag pattern" to the path leading down to the sales center from the car park, said associate Ignacio López Busón. Steel pavilions scattered along the walkway pick up on the theme, taking the form of abstracted mountain peaks. "That's something the client really liked," said López Busón. "Once the idea was clear, it was all about developing the shape of them, and trying to make them look special." To refine the image of the pavilions, explained López Busón, "we first looked at the faceted nature of Chinese mountains. They aren't smooth at all." Fengming Mountain Park's metal structures feature an aggressive geometry that twists and turns above chunky legs. The pavilions' perforations and red and orange color scheme were inspired by a second cultural touchstone. "Martha was interested in the idea of the Chinese lantern," said López Busón. "The lanterns are red; then you put a light inside, and they become a nice gradient of red and yellow." The Fengming Mountain Park team started work on the pavilions with hand sketches, then brought the concept design into Rhino. There they played with the shape, developing a system of triangular modules that again represented mountain peaks. Then they transferred the model to Grasshopper, where they focused on the perforations and color. "We made paper models, but not too many because we were quite happy with the result in Rhino," said López Busón, who acknowledged that a compressed schedule was also a factor. The most difficult aspect of fabrication, said López Busón, was adjusting the design of the pavilions to fit the size of the laser beds to which Third Chongqing Construction Engineering had access. "We made a Grasshopper definition to guarantee that every triangle fit the laser bed. However, the final outcome showed several scars, which tells us that the developer likely reused some leftovers to save on materials." Both the panels and the supporting profile tubes were fabricated out of steel, to reduce costs. Martha Schwartz Partners originally proposed painting individual panels after cutting, then assembling the finished panels on site. "The fabricators didn't agree," said López Busón. "They built the pavilions first, then spray painted them." The result, he said, was favorable. "What you see is a smooth gradient from the bottom to the top." The perforations, too, help negotiate the transition from ground to sky. "We came up with a pattern that changes from bottom to top, which sort of dissolves the pavilion," said López Busón. "It's quite nice at night. There's also this nice merging between decoration and structure; you can't tell what is what." The experience of designing a 16,000 square meter park on an abbreviated timeline "was intense, but fun," said López Busón. "At the very beginning, we were following this traditional way of practicing architecture: Whatever we designed in three dimensions, we unrolled and put into AutoCAD." But as the weeks flew by, the designers streamlined the process, sending 3D models directly to the client—a process, he explained, that allowed the designers to catch and immediately correct a problem with the perforation pattern. "Without the digital tools, it would have been impossible."
University of Arkansas addition celebrates the future with a contemporary rewrite of Neoclassicism.As head of the architecture department and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell was uniquely qualified to oversee the renovation and expansion of the school's home, Vol Walker Hall. To unite the school's landscape architecture, architecture, and interior design departments under one roof for the first time, Blackwell's eponymous firm designed a contemporary west wing to mirror the east bar on the existing Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the 1930s as the university library. But the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—which tied for Building of the Year in AN's 2014 Best of Design Awards—is more than a container for 37,000 square feet of new studio, seminar, and office space. It is also a teaching tool, a lesson in the evolution of architectural technology writ in concrete, limestone, glass, steel, and zinc. "Our strategy was to create a counterweight to the existing building," explained Blackwell. Rather than a layered steel-frame construction, Marlon Blackwell Architect opted for a post-tensioned concrete structure to convey a sense of mass and volume. "We also wanted to demonstrate what you can do with new technology like post-tensioned concrete, such as introducing a cantilever and introducing a profile that has minimal columns in the spaces," he said. "All of that is a didactic tool for our students to contrast and compare with the load-bearing technology of the existing structure." The exterior of the Steven L. Anderson Design Center also reflects on changes to architectural practice during the last 80 years. "We really wanted to develop a strong profile of the building, in contrast to Vol Walker Hall," said Blackwell. He describes the effect as a figure-ground reversal: where in the older structure the mass of the building is the ground and the windows and ornament act as figure, in the new wing the mass is the figure and the fenestration the ground. To create what Blackwell terms a "condition of resonance" between the Design Center and Vol Walker Hall, the architects engaged Clarkson Consulting to develop an architectural concrete to match the color of a local Arkansas limestone no longer available. They echoed the Indiana limestone on the older wing with panels sourced from a quarry only 50 miles from the original. But instead of grouting the limestone cladding on the new wing, Blackwell chose a limestone rain screen system from Stone Panels. "That allows us to go much thinner but much larger," he said. "Again, we're using the same materials but showing how the advancement of technology allows for a different expression of architecture." The defining feature of the Design Center is the more than 200-foot-long glass and steel curtain wall on the western facade. Knowing that the western exposure would provide the only source of natural light for the new wing, the architects worked to balance the need for light against the threat of solar gain. To complement the existing building, they chose a fascia steel curtain wall custom-fabricated by local company L&L Metal Fabrication. With curtain wall consultants Heitmann & Associates, Blackwell developed a brise soleil comprising 3/4-inch by 18-inch frit glass fins, angled to filter sunlight into the Design Center's 43-foot-deep studios. "What we like about it, too, is that it's one big window," said Blackwell. "It allows it to feel as if we've cut a section right through the building. At night the entire facade becomes a beacon, allowing for a nice interface between the school of architecture and the rest of the community." Other details, including the monolithic concrete pours designed to lighten the Design Center's connection to the ground, and zinc cladding used on the top floor to sharpen the profile of the main body, continue the dialogue between the new structure and its Neoclassical neighbor. "There are a lot of little things that give a tautness to the expression of the new addition, and give it its own identity," said Blackwell. "But at the same time, one of the things we were faithful to was trying to analyze and uncover units of measure and proportion on the old building, and apply that to ours." Perhaps more importantly, the building works as a design school—and Blackwell would know. "There's certainly contrast on the outside," he said. "But there's an almost resonant seamlessness on the inside."
Glass and corrugated metal envelop a Scottsdale cycling shop.When debartolo architects principal Jack DeBartolo 3 AIA first visited the site of Bicycle Haüs in Scottsdale, he knew it was exactly what owners Shasta and Kale Keltz were looking for. "In Arizona, with our very intense heat, we love it when we can unite two things: a northern orientation to maximize light without direct sun, and high visibility to the public way," said DeBartolo. "When a parcel's oriented like this, with its main side facing north, it allows us to do both things in one. We can build a glass facade for light and to advertise the contents, and it can also be a view building." DeBartolo's firm designed a wedge-shaped structure with a broad structural glass facade facing the street. The remainder of the building is clad in weathering steel, a low-maintenance material that taps into the desert aesthetic of decay and renewal. "The concept for the building was all about its orientation, and its place, and its environmental response," explained DeBartolo. The architects chose a wedge form for the 5,000-square-foot showroom for several reasons. First, they wanted to maximize glazing on the north-facing facade. "With the shape of the building we collect that northern light and pull it deeply into the building," said DeBartolo. "In the desert, we get a lot of our intense sunlight bouncing off the ground. It also bounces off the ceiling inside the space, so often there's almost no electric light needed in this room." In addition, the building's massing pushes its activity to the street rather than to the back of the lot. Finally, the architects designed the wedge form and a gently sloping roof to someday accommodate solar panels. The 48-foot-wide, 30-foot-tall structural glass wall on the north facade was the product of careful coordination among the architects, engineers, and installers. "What we love, and where we often say less is more work, is that in Arizona we can attach the glass directly to the structural shell using a liquid affixing system," said DeBartolo. Steel tabs welded to the ends of a series of 2-inch-by-6-inch structural tube steel columns receive six-foot-wide panels of low-e insulated glass. Since the glass and steel erectors work with different tolerance levels, explained DeBartolo, "getting them all on the same page early on takes a pretty significant learning curve. You're pushing construction to the max, but we love the overall quality we get when we've literally just glazed the structure." The bicycle shop's mezzanine level cantilevers ten feet over the entrance to create a shaded porch. In addition to providing a space for cyclists to gather before and after rides, the porch "encourages sidewalk activity along First Avenue," said DeBartolo. "That's an important criterion that Scottsdale's trying to push." Corrugated box rib cold-rolled steel, fabricated by Gen3, envelops the building's east, south, and west facades. "The idea was to economize the skin and create a really well-insulated building," said DeBartolo. The architects liked that the steel was available in 30-foot runs, allowing them to avoid horizontal seams. They also wanted "something with aesthetic richness," said DeBartolo. "We try to do everything we can to avoid painting buildings. This weathering steel allows the building to continue to enrich itself as time passes." At the southwest corner of the lot, where team members enter through a back door, debartolo architects carved a notch out of the building's massing, replacing the corrugated envelope with galvanized flat panels affixed with VHB. "We allowed the interior when we cut it away to remain galvanized," explained DeBartolo. "It creates relief, visually, from the harsh exterior." The designers incorporated custom slot windows into the metal facades. "They work really well with our strong western light," said DeBartolo. "We just get little strips of lights rather than a large mass that creates heat gain." The windows are arranged so that they hit the corrugation pattern at the same place every time. They are also integrated with the interior displays, moving up and down to make way for racks of merchandize. "It was very thought through, very methodical, though it created something that almost looks random," said DeBartolo. The architecture of the Bicycle Haüs embodies the owners' passion for cycling. "They really pride themselves on staying state of the art with respect to cycling," said DeBartolo. "In much the same way they wanted the building to really respond to that. Furniture and fixtures define the movement of people, but the space is a lofty room that's almost a gallery for bicycles."
An interactive installation reconsiders the definitions of enclosure and openness.Warren Techentin Architecture’s digitally-designed La Cage Aux Folles, on display at Materials & Applications in Los Angeles through August, was inspired by a decidedly analog precedent: the yurt. “Yurts are circular,” explained Techentin, who studied the building type as part of his thesis work at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. “That began the idea of using small-diameter rods and taking software and configuring sweeps with some special scripts that we found online.” But while the yurt’s primary function is shelter, Techentin’s open-air installation, built of 6,409 linear feet of steel pipe, is a literal and intellectual playground, its form an investigation of the dualities of inside and out, enclosure and openness. Once the architects became familiar with the scripts, which allowed them to manipulate multiple pipes simultaneously, they found it easy to generate designs. The hard part was settling on a final shape. Then an off-hand observation narrowed their focus. “Somebody made a comment about, it looks like a crazy cage,” said Techentin. “We realized, ‘Oh, there’s this cage component. What if we imagine spaces inside spaces?’ That’s where these interiorized conditions came through, kind of creating layers of inside and outside.” Technical constraints further influenced the form. “We had to jump out of the digital world and decide how this was made in reality,” said Techentin. To minimize materials costs, the architects decided to work with schedule 40 steel tube, which is available in 24-foot lengths. Returning to Rhino, they broke apart their model and rescripted it accordingly. They modified their model again after learning what radiuses their metalworking contractor could accommodate. “It was kind of a balancing act between hitting these radiuses, the 24-foot lengths, and repetition—but how do you get difference and variety,” said Techentin. Warren Techentin Architecture originally sought a digital fabricator for the project. But the quotes they received were too high, and they could not locate a manufacturer able to work with pipes longer than six feet. They contacted Paramount Roll and Forming, who rolled and bent the tubes by hand for one-tenth of what digital fabrication would have cost. “It wasn’t what we wanted, but in the end we wanted to see the project through,” said Techentin. Paramount sent the shaped steel to Ramirez Ironworks, where volunteers interested in metalworking helped assemble the structure. The design and fabrication team then disassembled it, painted the components, and transported them for reassembly on the site, a small courtyard in the Silver Lake neighborhood. La Cage Aux Folles invites active exploration. “My work draws great influence [from] architecture as something that you interface with, interact with—that envelops you, becomes part of an environment you participate with,” said Techentin, who overheard someone at the opening call his structure “a constructivist playground.” “We fully intended people walking around in there, lying down,” he said. “The surprise factor were the number of people who feel inspired to climb to the second and, more ambitiously, the third cages. We’re not encouraging it, but people do it.”
An abstracted version of a street tree, a canopy of tessellated irregular polygons balances atop slim steel posts.When Public: Architecture + Communication visited the site of the transit shelters the University of British Columbia had asked them to design, they found that something was missing. The main point of entry to the campus, University Boulevard is lined with trees—except where the bus shelters would go. “There was this language of gaps that we noticed,” said Public’s Christopher Sklar. The shelters themselves, they decided, should fill in the tree line. The designers were left with a question, articulated by Sklar: “How does it be a quiet piece but also something interesting and unusual that relates to its surroundings?” Beginning with the image of a tree’s branch structure, Public placed a wood canopy defined by a repeating pattern atop slim steel posts. As for the pattern itself, the designers considered a range of options, from Moorish patterns to simple geometric shapes. The trouble with a geometric pattern, said Sklar, is that it is “often a static thing. We looked at triangles; they’re just triangles. Add a side, it’s just a square.” But if you add one more side, you have a pentagon. And that is where things get interesting. The tessellation of irregular pentagons is surprisingly complicated, on both a mathematical and an aesthetic level. “The thing that we liked about the repeating pentagon is that it creates something that is repetitive, but it’s also something that’s fluid and dynamic,” said Sklar. “It doesn’t feel like it’s repeating when you’re actually in it. It’s kind of a flowing structure above you.” Public alternated between Rhino and Grasshopper, finding that it was easier to perfect a line drawing and plug it into Grasshopper than to allow Grasshopper to generate the tessellation. “I think it’s one of these things where it’s a new technology, people want to see what it can do, think it can help you generate forms,” said Sklar. “But it’s taking away the last thing we have left to us. We’re designers, we want to shape the thing.” The team built a full-scale model of two of the canopy’s cells to get a sense of their size, hoisting the cardboard shapes onto the ceiling pipes in their Vancouver studio. Structurlam fabricated the Glulam canopy on a Hundegger CNC machine. The steel supports were manually welded at Bosmon Steelworks. The shelter’s concrete benches were also fabricated by hand, at Szolyd. This was a surprise for Sklar, who had delivered a Rhino model of the bench design to the fabricators. But Szolyd said the design, which incorporates a series of fine edges as built-in skate-stops, would require as much work to prep the CNC machine as it would to build a mold manually—so they hired a carpenter to do just that. “Sometimes you do to all this work to make a digital model, and they’re like, ‘no, we’re just going to build it by hand,’” said Sklar. The shelters were assembled by Dan Georzen at Dancin Timber Works. Besides the wood canopy itself, the most dynamic component of the transit shelter is its surround, built of bronze-tinted glass from Columbia Glazing Systems. The tint serves three purposes. First, it cuts down on UV exposure. Second, it will give the canopy a warm cast even as the wood weathers. Finally, it creates a subtle reveal for passers-by. “When you’re approaching the shelter you see it in front of you, you can’t see through the bronze-tinted thing,” said Sklar. “Then when you get under it, it reveals itself to you. As you approach, it reflects its surroundings from all sides; then you get underneath and: ‘oh wow, look at that.’”
The glass, stone, and metal exterior of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex evokes the strength and agility of a college athlete.The superhero and the Samurai. That’s where Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF) began their design of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex at the University of Oregon. The football player, the architects imagined, is like Batman: stealthy and strong, he came to his powers not by supernatural accident, but through relentless training. At the same time, the athlete is a highly skilled warrior, the modern-day equivalent of Japanese military nobility. The facade of the new football training facility materializes these ideas in glass, stone, and metal. Dominated by horizontal expanses of tinted glass, it is powerful but not foreboding. ZGF offers the analogy to a suit of armor: the building’s skin balances protection and connection, solidity and agility. The most direct expression of the armor metaphor is on the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex’s west exterior. In Eugene, the real solar challenge comes not from the south, but from the west, where the sun hovers near the horizon for long periods all winter long. To minimize glare, the designers placed a floating sunscreen across the western face of the building. Using elevation studies and interior models, they determined the optimal placement of a series of tinted glass panels held in an aluminum frame developed by Benson Industries. The result is seemingly random arrangement of overlapping rectangles, which ZGF’s Bob Snyder likened to scales on a Samurai’s costume. On the other three sides of the building, ZGF installed a curtain wall of fritted, triple-pane insulated glass units supplied by SYP. The frit pattern was inspired by the nearby John E. Jacqua Academic Center for Student Athletes, which ZGF also designed. The Jacqua’s facade comprises two layers of glass, five feet apart with a stainless steel wire screen in between. At the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, the designers achieved a similar texture on a single layer of glass. “We saw that as a microcosm of the five-foot wall [at Jacqua],” said Snyder. The frit pattern was developed to be visible from both outside and inside the building, and to suggest movement as one passes along the facade. The final components of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex exterior are stone and metal cladding. ZGF chose granite and basalt from Western Tile & Marble, which was treated with water jets for a striated texture. The designers used stone primarily on the first three floors of the building. “We established that as the stone zone, we wanted the weight of that material, the high durability of that material down low where folks would come into contact [with it],” said Snyder. Above, the stone transitions to aluminum panels for a lighter feel. “We worked with [Streimer Sheet Metal Works] to get the tightest radius we could get on the ribs of the metal panel,” explained Snyder. “We really struggled with that material [to make it] as fine as the stone, so it didn’t look like you were wearing tennis shoes with your tuxedo.” Plate-steel fins at the mouth of the parking garage and near the entrance sidewalk suggest the hard back of a dinosaur—yet another reference to armor. For Snyder, the combination of materials on the building’s facade achieve a balance between groundedness and ambition. Like the athletes inside it, the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex remains tied to the earth even as it appears to float above it. “The idea is that to be really good at football, you need to be right on the edge,” said Snyder.