An important milestone for what is set to be Dallas' newest landmark was just reached as the first arch of Santiago Calatrava's Margaret McDermott Bridges project was completed in late August. As part of Dallas-Fort Worth region's Horseshoe Project, the Margaret McDermott Bridges, according to a press release, "are a major component of the city’s urban revitalization efforts." The project will span 1,200 feet across the Trinity River creating what is set to be a "central gathering place." Currently, the Eastbound Bridge Arch rises 275 feet above Interstate 30 and the project is due to be completed during the summer of 2017. The last arch piece, which was lifted roughly 28 stories on August 22, is approximately 1,024 feet long and weighs about 200 tons. The news is a boost for locals who eagerly anticipate its completion as it will provide pedestrian, cycle and car access to both sides. Costing a total of $113 million, the bridges barely take a chunk out of the $798 million Horseshoe project which looks to solve the city's infrastructure needs and traffic flow to the heart of Dallas’ downtown. For the entire duration of construction of the Margaret McDermott Bridge, Interstate 30 main lines have remained open.
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Taking a cue from a program in Houston, Dallas has decided to house 50 homeless people using low-cost cottages designed by bcWORKSHOP, short for Building Community Workshop. The small dwellings are expected to open to residents in late October. Each person will have his or her own 400-square-foot home complete with a compact kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. The homes also include access to a shared green recreational space as well as "on-site high-quality mental & medical healthcare and social services." Speaking to Dallas News Larry James, president and chief executive of CitySquare (who will also offer job training among other social services) said: “We found out that if we take the 200 most expensive people, the average person in the top 200 is costing taxpayers about $40,000 a year to keep them on the street.” This fits with the statement made by the executive director of Cottages at Hickory Crossing, Keith Ackerman, who told the Huffington Post that the program will reduce these costs to under $13,000 per person, saving the taxpayer an estimated $1.3million. The project has already received an AIA Dallas Design Award. It has taken six years to come to fruition running up a cost of $8.2 million, most of which has largely been fundraised. Meanwhile, the program has asked the public to help by purchasing furniture from Target via their gift registry. The move by Dallas is not new. Similar developments are cropping up across the country in what is becoming a national trend. Cities like Nashville, TN, has its own group of micro houses, part of the so-called "Infinity Village" which houses six homeless people.
Master adobe architects are looking for volunteers interested in building with little more than the earth around them
Simone Swan is perhaps this country’s most important advocate for adobe or mud brick architecture. In 1997, Swan left her New York home and moved to “500 acres of scenic fringe of the Chihuahuan desert near Presidio, Texas. There she founded the Adobe Alliance to teach the earth building techniques she had learned from the great Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy. Swan also built an adobe studio and home that featured dramatic earthen vaults using a techniques she learned under Fathy. But now, due to unusual weather patterns in the region, the vaults have fallen and Swan is seeking volunteers to rebuild them and learn the crafts and techniques of earth architecture. The work will be supervised by Swan and Mexican adobe master Fernando Pina, who will handcraft a Nubian vaulted roof measuring 23-feet by 10-feet on the property. For further information, visit the Adobe Alliance website, or call 505-988-2828, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Preferably bring your passport to cross the Mexican border (the mud bricks will be made in Mexico) or driver's license. Camping and hot showers are available immediately, whereas the kitchen will be operating as soon as the vault is built. For every day bring drinking water, your dog, and sun protection. For environmental, architectural, or engineering students, a certificate of completion is offered.
Envelope inspired by history of Dallas' African-American community.For the past 20 years, San Antonio–based Muñoz & Company (formerly Kell Muñoz Architects) has focused primarily on what president and CEO Henry Muñoz III calls "the architecture of identity." The bulk of that work, in turn, has been concentrated on the United States–Mexico border, where the architects collaborated with clients in majority-Latino communities.The commission to design Billy Dade Middle School (in a joint venture with KAI Texas) represented a departure from the firm's usual context. "It struck us that this particular campus had such a rich history and location—in the urban core of the city, and an area where the African-American community has been so important, historically," recalled Muñoz. "It was a great opportunity to explore what that means in the 21st century." Working closely with local residents, Muñoz & Company settled on the metaphor of a quilt, announcing the school's commitment to culturally attuned education with a translucent facade in multicolored glass and illuminated brick. Much of the preparation for the project took place outside the studio. "We approached it not just as designers, but in a more scholarly fashion," said Muñoz. The architects researched the school's namesake—educator, parent, and activist Dr. Billy Earl Dade—through interviews with family members and colleagues as well as archival materials found in a local museum. The linchpin of the design, however, fell into place at a dinner event Muñoz attended. There he asked Claudine Brown, assistant secretary for education and access at the Smithsonian Institution, to help him brainstorm a symbol of cultural identity in the African-American community, one that could help inspire young minds. "Immediately, with no hesitation, she said, 'I think you should look at quilts,'" said Muñoz. As the conversation and further research progressed, he learned that quilts have been used to tell stories, as visual signposts for safety, and as subtle acts of resistance—as well as to meet a basic need for warmth. In addition, said Muñoz, "We found superb artistry, [including] quilting collectives that keep the tradition alive." On the school's exterior, the architects expressed the quilt metaphor with multicolored glass walls fronting diagonal bays. Beyond the reference to quilts as cultural artifacts, the pattern projects a belief in the community's resilience. "That glass wall is an important way of expressing how anything can be woven together," said Muñoz. A patchwork rhythm recurs more subtly in the facade's brick walls, where transparent glass elements preserve a sense of openness. "At night, when the glass curtain wall is so transparent—like a lantern—you also get a sense of that in the brick wall," he explained. The entrance canopy, clad primarily in metal, deepens the material diversity of the building envelope, underlining the design's focus on inclusiveness. "You should be able to be yourself as you walk under it," said Muñoz. The quilt theme continues throughout the interior, notably in the tiled floors (inspired by the work of quilting cooperative Gee's Bend), displays of text from Dade's writings, quilts commissioned for the library, and a collection of salvaged doors lining the lobby walls. "Dade was a really strong mentor in an intergenerational fashion," explained Muñoz. We looked at a speech he made about opportunity and thought, 'What if we harvested doors from the neighborhood?' So in the lobby you see this patchwork of doors, meant to be doors of opportunity." Built to meet Dallas Independent School District's stringent environmental standards, Billy Dade "combined [environmental] sustainability with the idea of cultural sustainability," explained Muñoz. Though in keeping with the firm's track record of community-based design, the project was nonetheless a learning opportunity for the architects. "This was the first time that we've [designed] a school that is multicultural in a different way than what we've been used to working with," he said. "While the population was different, I hope people found something that they can see themselves in."
Barnett Newman: The Late Collection The Menil Collection 1533 Sul Ross Street, Houston, Texas Through August 2 The Late Collection pays homage to Barnett Newman, an artist who came to define the spiritual aspirations of American painting in the mid-20th century by deviating from traditional concepts of figure and foreground in search of an experience of the sublime. The exhibition charts the technical and material transformations of the twilight period of Newman’s career, including his transition from oil to acrylic paint. The artist passed at age 65, leaving behind finished and unfinished works, many of which lay bare the concepts underlying his broader production. Newman’s signature paintings are of large and bold vertical planes of color with upright lines that he called “zips.” Zips, he thought, would reach out to the viewer and lift them out of their torpor into a confrontation with eternity. The exhibition also features major paintings made throughout Newman’s career from The Menil’s permanent collection. While visiting, also note that construction has begun on The Menil Drawing Institute, designed by Los Angeles architectural practice Johnston Marklee.
As EcoServices team leader for Kirksey Architecture, Julie Hendricks spends her days thinking about how to build sustainably without busting a project's budget. On a typical job, whether for Kirksey or an outside firm, "we look at energy use, daylighting, and site analysis," she explained. "We do a lot of different studies to make sure buildings are performing at the highest level." The EcoServices team also conducts non-billable research, primarily focused on comparing actual to projected performance on buildings designed in-house. Hendricks will present an example from her research portfolio on June 18 at the Facades+AM Houston symposium. Achieving sustainability goals is particularly challenging in Houston, said Hendricks. "We feel like we have a unique and especially difficult climate because of the humidity and heat," said Hendricks. As a result, she explained, they have a limited range of passive strategies to work with; yet passive interventions are the most straightforward and cost-effective tools for mitigating thermal gain and moisture transfer. "That's the number one thing we deal with, and have tried to become experts in," she said. The hot Texas sun can be especially hard to beat. Too often, said Hendricks, facades systems are applied counter to their intended use. "One of our favorite games on the EcoServices Team is to drive around and point out ineffective shading devices," she said. "It's ironic, because they're really expensive. It means someone's investing in a device that has a purely aesthetic function." On the flip side, Hendricks is encouraged by the increasing availability of glass products with built-in thermal protections. "When we can [mitigate solar gain] with just glass, those solutions tend to be more affordable," she explained, citing glazing with embedded shading devices, ceramic frit glass, and electrochromic glass as examples worth exploring. Besides the potential to keep costs down, these options better satisfy clients seeking a streamlined curtain wall aesthetic. Catch up with Hendricks and other experts in high performance facade design and fabrication at Facades+AM Houston. Register now on the event website.
As founding principal of Muñoz Albin, Jorge Muñoz has a unique global perspective on high performance facade design. Based in Houston, the firm's earliest projects were located overseas. "In the last 20 plus years, we have worked and continue to work on projects in Western Europe, where there is a tradition of more generous budgets on building envelopes as well as more flexible user and developer demands on efficiency," said Muñoz. Over the course of his career, Muñoz—who will bring his comparative point of view to a panel on "Current Projects Pushing the Envelope" at next month's Facades+AM Houston symposium—has observed the tendency of facade design and construction technologies to vary from one locale to the next. "There are many exceptions to this rule, but in general, a building envelope matches the market expectations and budget allocation of where the building is being built," he explained. "Climate, program, environmental performance, and design challenges are different in different markets." In Houston, said Muñoz, building envelopes have evolved alongside the economy. "One can see double skin solutions built in the early 1960s, and advanced solutions in the 1970s," he said. "While Houston has lived through many years of pragmatic envelopes, in the last few years architects have been pushing for more and more sophisticated solutions." Houston has tended to be "timid" when it comes to adopting advancements in envelope design, explained Muñoz, but is beginning to consider cutting-edge performance solutions. "In time, we will have some of those buildings in our city," he said. As for local projects, Muñoz expressed admiration for HOK's Sysco headquarters phase one building. The building is on the older side, but "the massing as well as the envelope design denotes a sophisticated understanding of performance and aesthetics," he said. Like conference co-chair Kristopher Stuart, he also pointed to Pickard Chilton's Exxon complex in the Woodlands, as "another example of a complex and sophisticated envelope solution that is worth studying and understanding." Muñoz and Stuart also agree that another Pickard Chilton project, the under-construction 609 Main Street, is worth a close look. "It will offer not only a double- or triple-layered skin that also envelopes an eroding and slightly more plastic building massing, the first in the city," said Muñoz. Muñoz looks forward to a productive dialogue among panelists and attendees at Facades+AM Houston. "I think that facade design is a fascinating subject, and one that elicits plurality of thought," he said. "It will be most interesting to hear about the current trends in the city." Visit the Facades+AM website today to learn more or to register.
Thanks to the city's humid subtropical climate, facade designers and fabricators face a special set of challenges in Houston. Unchecked, steady sunshine and high temperatures can permeate the building envelope, leading to a heavy reliance on mechanical cooling systems. Meanwhile, Houston's Gulf Coast location makes it vulnerable to tropical storms. Sanjeev Tankha, principal and director of facade engineering at Walter P. Moore, argues that the solution to performance issues including solar gain and wind lies in a holistic approach to facade design. "All aspects of building envelope performance—from materials science to building physics analysis, structural analysis, research and development, waterproofing and weatherproofing, longevity and life cycle analysis—must be given a platform to engage effectively in the design process," he said. "Our industry must come to terms with and take on the challenge to respond effectively to the elements of solar heat and wind mitigation." Tankha will share his experience responding to the local climate next month at Facades+AM Houston. A half-day spinoff of the popular Facades+ conference series, Facades+AM brings regionally-specific discourse on high performance building envelopes to AEC industry professionals, students, and policymakers. In the real world of building design and construction, observed Tankha, environmental performance is regularly sidelined in favor of other concerns. "Performance of the building skin, in any given project, is often trumped by financial pressures to the detriment of overall building performance," he said. "I would like to see more commitment from AEC stakeholders to make performance issues a core value in our work." The key, he explained, is making performance a priority from the get-go. "The early design work needs to embed these values in the development so they are not add-on features," said Tankha. "This is a philosophical debate that is held on every project, and many times building performance comes out on the losing side." In Tankha's experience, less can be more when it comes to addressing solar gain and wind. "I always encourage the use of passive technologies and passive building systems first before the overlay of active systems," he said, pointing to historical strategies including building form and orientation. "I see some of that design philosophy coming back and now coupled with advancement in materials, coatings, and efficient mechanical systems, we have a palette for a holistic approach towards exploring effective solutions." To hear more from Tankha and other building envelope specialists, register today for Facades+AM Houston.
For Kristopher Stuart, design director and principal at Gensler, Houston's rapid evolution is exactly what makes practicing architecture there exciting."Houston is a city of change and a great testing ground for new ideas," he said. "The past decade has been particularly robust for design and construction, so we've developed some excellent benchmark projects representing the current state-of-the-art for facade design. The new projects focus on sustainability and resilience with our often extreme local weather in mind; wellness and connectivity that improve the quality of life for people; and performance and innovation that make buildings smarter, more efficient and more cost effective for owners and managers." Next month, Stuart will co-chair Facades+AM Houston, a half-day version of the acclaimed Facades+ conference series. The morning seminar comprises three panels featuring three experts each on topics relevant to AEC industry professionals, observers, and students in Houston and beyond. The June 18 event marks the symposium's Energy City debut. Facades+AM Houston attendees will not have to look far to find examples of innovative envelope design and construction. Stuart cited several recently-completed projects in the city's "energy corridor," plus high performance buildings for Anadarko, ExxonMobile, and Southwestern Energy north of downtown. Downtown, construction is presently underway on Skanska's Capitol Tower and 609 Main, developed by Hines. "It will be exciting to see this next generation of buildings emerge, iconic buildings that will raise the performance bar while enhancing the human experience within the urban environment," Stuart noted. He also pointed to some of the Midway Companies' recent or planned work including CityCentre and Kirby Grove, describing them as "more contextual, urban infill projects that are looking at facades from an experiential as well as a performance perspective, projects that will impact the way we think about facades in the Houston design community." In Stuart's view, Houston's challenging climate has pushed the local AEC industry to a deeper understanding of how design decisions affect performance. The community has also been successful in cultivating relationships with facades consultants and fabricators to execute efficient envelopes. "One might say that we've mastered the basics, and now need to shift our focus to innovative materials and fabrication techniques as well as unique collaboration relationships in order to achieve more dramatic performance enhancements that will be executable and affordable," he said. Stuart looks forward to the June 18 conversation with other movers and shakers in the field of high performance envelope design. "Facades+AM Houston is a unique opportunity to share some outstanding work that has been executed recently either in Houston or by Houston design firms, to hear about facade innovations from academic and industry experts, and to engage in a conversation about the future of building facades in the Houston market," said Stuart. To learn more or to register for Facades+AM Houston, visit the event website.
They say "everything is bigger in Texas." So it goes for Houston's skyline, the fourth largest in the United States. Big, too, are the names behind Space City's most iconic skyscrapers. The city's tallest, the 75-story JPMorgan Chasetower, was designed by I.M. Pei in 1981. A number of other internationally-renowned architects and firms have left their mark on Houston, including César Pelli, Philip Johnson, Robert A.M. Stern, Renzo Piano, SOM, and Gensler. Today, Texas' most populous city is home to TEX-FAB, a network of academics and practitioners pushing the boundaries of computational fabrication. On the urban front, Houston is making strides away from its car-centric past. The city's light rail system, MetroRail, opened in 2004; in 2013, Mayor Annise Parker issued an executive order outlining a Complete Streets policy. Last year, Mayor Parker directed the planning commission to create a General Plan—the first in Houston's history—with a special focus on walkability. And if a panel of advisers from the Urban Land Institute have their way, the disused Houston Astrodome could be transformed into a massive public park in time for 2017's Super Bowl LI. Both Houston's architectural legacy and its potential for urban transformation make it a natural fit for Facades+AM, the quick-take version of the popular Facades+ conference series on high performance envelope design and fabrication. On June 18, AEC industry leaders will convene at the historic Hotel Icon (formerly the Union National Bank, designed in 1911 by Mauran, Russell & Crowell) for a look at the latest developments in the world of building enclosures. Chaired by Gensler's Kristopher Stuart, the half-day event will feature three sessions with three speakers each, to conclude by 12:30 pm. Register for Facades+AM Houston or learn more at the symposium website. Check back frequently for updates on presenters and panel topics.
SoftLAB 3D prints a kaleidoscopic pavilion for 3M at SXSW 2015 that showcases colorful dichroic film
A household name in resilient scotch tape and self-adhesive velcro, 3M wowed the crowd at South by Southwest 2015 (SXSW) with a 3D-printed pavilion awash in kaleidoscopic colors, with every inch of the structure designed to showcase a 3M product at work. SOFTlab collaborated with 3M and BBDO to create the pavilion, a continuous modular structure made from powder-coated aluminum pipes, which assembled within minutes. The easy-build structure was composed of over 1,200 unique 3D-printed joints and sockets with a rotating snap, so that even the proverbial monkey could rise to the occasion. Overhead, more than 3,000 3M cable ties were used to construct the display and bar elements, as well as the complex dichroic ceiling. Responsible for the phosphorescent glow of shifting color, like the inside of a soapy bubble, was the exterior clad in custom Scotchlite fabric held together with zippers—one of the only times the retroreflective material has been deployed on an architectural scale. These panels of material reflected the highly saturated colors generated by 3M’s dichroic film-a-thin-filter, which creates saturated hues from light. An all-white interior played up the colors even more, coated in a glossy white di-noc laminate, an architectural finish by 3M. Meanwhile, a dichroic film laminate on the acrylic cladding of each crystalline-shaped column added to the glimmering quality of the interior, and flooded the visitors in color. The clever intricacies of the structure plunged visitors into the world of material science, a domain in which the multinational conglomerate predominates.
This year’s Texas Society of Architects Design Conference focused on the topic of craft and was framed by a discussion of noted regional modernist O’Neil Ford. It was held in the north Texas town of Denton where Ford began his professional career and executed several important early projects. Unfortunately, a severe winter storm hit the region as attendees were making their way to the conference. With the chartered buses unable to make it to the hotel, tours were scrapped and lectures were relocated to the nondescript lobby of the hotel where attendees were staying. This allowed the talks to be attended both by sketchbook-wielding architects and by members of the Old Dominion University Basketball Team who were also staying at the hotel. Likely inspired by the subject matter, they defeated the University of North Texas 70 to 57. Dr. Kathryn O’Rourke gave the opening lecture that located Ford within the larger narrative arc of the modern movement. The Trinity University professor spoke of the role craft came to play in Ford’s work beginning with his Denton projects. Seattle-based Tom Kundig spoke the following morning about his body of work and of preserving a culture of craft within a 120-person firm. He described the difference between skiing on a prepared run as opposed to “Skiing the trees,” in a forest. He used this analogy to describe the profession, but it also was a fitting depiction for the conference. Later that afternoon David Salmela described his search for what a craft-based architecture of northwestern Minnesota should be. Based in Duluth, Salmela refrained from giving his Texan hosts too much grief for their inability to function with only a few inches of snow and ice. Although the lack of tours was disappointing, their cancellation allowed more time for the lectures and provided more opportunities for interaction between speakers and attendees. It also allowed Tenna Florian, who was scheduled to give a tour of Lake|Flato’s Josey Pavilion, to give a talk describing how craft can be used as a tool of sustainability. On Sunday morning the roads had cleared to a point where attendees were able to visit two churches designed by Ford. The Conference ended with a panel discussion at Ford’s 1939 Little Chapel in the Woods. After exploring the building, attendees listened to a panel discussion moderated by noted Dallas architect Max Levy. The session proved to be a fitting end to a most memorable Conference.