Posts tagged with "Texas":

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Sanjeev Tankha explains the intracacies of engineering facades for hot, humid Houston

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.
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Gensler’s Kristopher Stuart on Houston’s Facades Scene

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.
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Save the Date! Facades+AM heads to Houston this June

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.
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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.
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Notes from the 2015 Texas Society of Architects Design Conference in Denton

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.
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Eavesdrop> Ski Bummer: Proposed enormous indoor ski slope resort in Texas calls it quits

Grand Prairie, Texas, has been spared what could have been the nation’s first indoor ski resort and Hard Rock Hotel. The project’s developer, The Grand Alps Group, pulled the $215 million proposal after a meeting with Grand Prairie’s mayor and city manager. They were not happy about losing the big fish. “We were a little surprised,” City Manager Tom Hart told the Dallas Morning News. “We thought we had a pretty good meeting.” In a press release, Sherman Thurston, Grand Alps’ CEO, cited a disagreement about “terms and conditions and costs” as his reason for pulling out of the deal. Apparently the $30 million in tax exemptions, offer to purchase half the land, and return of 75 percent of the hotel-motel taxes that Grand Prairie promised Thurston wasn’t enough to convince the developer, who claims to already have financing in place to build the project, including $100 million from foreign investors, mostly Chinese. Grand Alps is currently looking for other possible sites in the Dallas–Fort Worth area.
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Eavesdrop> It’s Very European! Houston developers invoke the Old World to help sell real estate

Eavesdrop is scratching its head. First, in January, Gensler released new renderings for the Hotel Alessandra in downtown Houston. Where before the firm had proposed a sleek modern glass tower for the site with strong, swooping vertical lines that accentuated the building’s height, the new iteration shows a collection of rectilinear facade treatments of varying levels of transparency arranged to express a podium, tower, and crown with cornice. Jonathan Brinsden, CEO of the project’s developer, Midway, described the new look as a “modern interpretation of European style.” Then in February we learned from Nancy Sarnoff of the Houston Chronicle that real estate company Hines is in the middle of constructing “a dense European village” (a.k.a. gated community) in the northwest 610 Loop full of townhouses in “Regency and Normandy” styles. The development also features a canal, so residents can pretend they live in Amsterdam, perhaps. A day later, news emerged that The Woodlands Development Co., a subsidiary of The Howard Hughes Corp., is building “luxury high-rise residences with a European sensibility” designed by Atlanta architecture firm The Preston Group. By the look of the rendering, however, the project’s sensibility seems to be closer to that of The Westin hotel that is rising next door. Eavesdrop is unsure what the marketing benefits might be of touting Europeanism in real estate development projects of this kind, nor if there is a hell waiting for those who would seek to undermine and cheapen 2,000 years of Western Civilization so that they can chisel a few extra bucks out of their customers, but we are damn sure not going to be duped into aping this meaningless drivel!
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On View> Shigeru Ban’s humanitarian architecture highlighted by the Dallas Center for Architecture

Shigeru Ban: Humanitarian Architecture Dallas Center for Architecture 1909 Woodall Rodgers Freeway Dallas, Texas Through April 25 The Dallas Center for Architecture is presenting a selection of Pritzker Prize winning architect Shigeru Ban’s disaster relief designs. Ban’s humanitarian architecture has confronted some of the world’s most devastating natural and manmade cataclysms in the last 20 years. The Japanese architect is known for his pioneering designs for United Nations refugee shelters in the mid-1990s, using inexpensive and often recycled materials such as paper tubes and cardboard to make durable, shock-proof structures. Projects on view include the Tsunami Reconstruction Project (2005, Sri Lanka), Onagawa Community Center (2011, Onagawa, Japan, pictured above), Cardboard Cathedral (2013, New Zealand), and Paper Nursery School (2014, Yaan, Japan). Complementing the exhibition is a film screening on April 8 of a 2006 documentary about Ban, Shigeru Ban: An Architect for Emergencies. The film features extensive interviews with the architect about the practical, philosophical, and aesthetic aspects of his work. The exhibition is held in collaboration with Austin College, which will present Ban with the 2015 Posey Leadership Award at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science on March 26.  
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Elizabeth Chu Richter inaugurated as 2015 AIA President

At a ceremony held in mid-December, Elizabeth Chu Richter was inaugurated as the 91st president of the AIA. Richter was born in Nanjing, China, grew up in Hong Kong and Dallas, and holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas. In 2007, she served as the president of the Texas Society of Architects and more recently represented Texas on the AIA’s National Board of Directors. Richter also heads the Corpus Christi-based architecture firm Richter Architects which won the 2011 Texas Society of Architects Firm Award. “As architects, we use our creativity to serve society—to make our communities better places to live," Richter said at the event. "Through our profession and our life’s work, each of us has shaped and reshaped the ever-changing narrative that is America in both humble and spectacular ways.”
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Creek Show shines a light on Austin’s Waller Creek

On the evening of Thursday, November 13, temperatures in Austin, Texas, dropped below freezing. In spite of the fact that most locals are unaccustomed to this degree of frigidity, more than 1,000 people turned out for Creek Show: Light Night 2014. The event, which ran from five in the evening until midnight, celebrated the unveiling of a series of light installations along Waller Creek between 5th and 9th streets. Organized by non-profit group Waller Creek Conservancy, Creek Show is a prelude of sorts to the ongoing plan to transform the flash-flood prone waterway into a chain of public parks designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Thomas Phifer and Partners with lighting design by Linnaea Tillett. It features five "illuminating works of art" by local architects and landscape architects, including Baldridge Architects, Design Workshop, Jason Sowell, Legge Lewis Legge, and Thoughtbarn, which turned in High Water Mark (pictured at top). Located under the 7th Street Bridge, High Water Mark is composed of 100-foot-long undulating, electroluminescent wires suspended 20 feet above the waterline. Hidden Measures is by University of Texas landscape architecture professor Jason Sowell. Sowell stenciled messages in photo luminescent paint along the creek that describe the waterway's physical dimensions and hydrologic infrastructure. Baldridge Architects set up a colonnade of sorts of LED tubes called Tracing the Line. The succession of vertical lights rise out of the creek, indicating its path through this segment of downtown Austin. Legge Lewis Legge's Light Bridge is made up of a rope and hanging electroluminescent wire that arc over the water, suggesting a bridge. Flow by Design Workshop (below) is a series of tarps strung across the creek that are illuminated by color changing lights. The tapestries roll and flutter in the wind, emulating the coursing of the water below.
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On View> Yusuke Asai paints with mud at Houston’s Rice Gallery

yamatane Rice Gallery 6100 Main Street, Houston, Texas Through November 23 yamatane, on view now at Rice Gallery in Houston, is a site-specific installation by Japanese artist Yusuke Asai. Created in just under two weeks by Asai and a team of student volunteers working around the clock, yamatane is composed of pigments made from soil collected in the Houston area—brown, yellow, pink, red, and even green dirt that was gathered before the artist arrived and ground into pigment with only water added to turn it into paint. 10yamatane_press Asai used the natural paints to create what he calls an “earth painting.” It depicts a dense landscape of rolling geologic forms and tribal patterns populated by imaginary creatures and characters that spill from the gallery walls onto the floor. In Asai’s words, “I choose to use the earth as a medium because I can find dirt anywhere in the world and do not need special materials. Dirt is by nature very different than materials sold in art stores! Seeds grow in it and it is home to many insects and microorganisms. It is a ‘living’ medium.” Go see it before it’s gone. Asai embraces the ephemeralness of his medium, which can be wiped away with water. He has been making these paintings since 2008 and almost none remain today.
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Overland Unclogs Historic Plumbing Warehouse

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."
  • Facade Manufacturer Overland Workshop, The Beck Group, Sharp Glass, Tower Steel
  • Architects Overland
  • Facade Installer The Beck Group
  • Location San Antonio, Texas
  • Date of Completion December 2012
  • System Existing brick facade with custom steel and glass curtain wall, glass and steel punch windows, clerestories
  • Products custom steel and glass curtain wall, high-performance windows, Lutron automatic shades, custom gates by Overland Workshop
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."