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Kengo Kuma reveals shimmering new Wuxi Vanke Art Gallery in China

Using aluminum casts that have been drilled to allow light to filter through, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has created a tranquil space that is the Vanke Art Gallery. Located in the Wuxi province, just West of Shanghai, the gallery's amoeba-like footprint is derived from the shape of the local Taihu Lake stone that was once at the epicenter of Taihu culture in China. Kuma's project also involved the renovation of a former cotton mill that is also part of the gallery complex. The curvaceous aluminum-panelled facade wraps around the main structure, clad with glass, giving it a wide berth. These panels allow light to permeate through myriad gaps and gently illuminate the interior gallery. Because the facade was placed in front of the actual glass elevation, the effects of shadowing are exaggerated. Meanwhile, light is also allowed to reflect off water that bridges the gap between these two facades. In some places, this shallow pool of water's footprint extends beyond that of the aluminum facade. As a result, three distinct footprints interplay, with the water acting as the initial threshold, of a series of three, between the public and private space. The water, as the primary threshold, also establishes a calm and tranquil environment, something Kuma was eager to construct with the area's history of being home to a bustling brick-built cotton mill. This is then reinforced via light filtering through and the choice of materiality. Kuma, while disrupting the function within the immediate vicinity also instills a sense of tradition, drawing on the history of Lake Taihu, where the form of the Taihu stone comes from. Wuxi Vanke Art which occupies a combined 112,375 square feet also offers spaces for commercial functions and offices within the two structures.
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Modernist master of the oblique, Claude Parent, passes away at 93

Claude Parent passed away over the weekend in Paris, a day after his 93rd birthday on Friday. He was one of the most influential modernist architects to come out of France and founder of the oblique function. Parent's aesthetic style is widely acknowledged for paving the way for architects such as Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and Frank Gehry. His style often bears the hallmark of angled walls and roofing, articulating space in such way that had not been seen before on such a scale. The oblique style was developed with the help of urban planner and cultural philosopher Paul Virilio who drew inspiration from the disorientating properties of World War II bunkers that slumped down among sand dunes, hence obscuring the threshold between floor and walls. Together, Parent and Virilio formed Architecture Principe. Notable works include Sainte Bernadette du Balay at Nevers, France. A close friend of Parent, French architect and academic Odile Decq wrote in 2005: "If someone tells you that Claude Parent is over 80, do not believe it."  "His indignation is one that galvanizes and helps you to think about your dreams become possible. This drug is without any danger: it is a necessary prescription for the today’s students in architecture, fully invested in project reality but all frustrated with their dreams about tomorrow’s living," she went on to say. "Though often on the edge, his own heart never broke down, repaired by surgeries on the side road, some oblique roads, so strong and intense was the energy Claude put in it." Today, Decq added to her comments of eleven years ago. "Even if it has been repaired multiple times, last Saturday, while becoming 93, his heart has dropped off and I have lost a friend who was shaking my head to go further. See you soon, Claude!" Parent was rewarded for his contributions to architecture in 1979 when he claimed the Grand National Prize for Architecture. In 2010, he was awarded the title of Commander of the Legion of Honour, one of the highest decorations France can offer.
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Product> Shine Bright: Architectural Lighting

Advances in LED technology allow for brighter stars outdoors and perfect clarity within, while providing stylish points of interest. Nova Modular Suspension Edge Lighting The Nova Modular Suspension system is highly adaptable to any commercial or residential environment and can be configured in nearly any pattern because of its ability to run from 4 to 120 inches in 2.4-inch increments. It is compatible with a variety of connectors and is available in six color temperatures from 24 kilowatts to 57 kilowatts. Teardrop Glass Nathan Allan Glass Studios Teardrop architectural glass is the first “texture less” kiln formed glass of its kind. It provides more than adequate levels of opacity and privacy, while allowing ample streams of light to effectively brighten the office interiors. Eggboard Artemide This two-in-one piece won the iF product design award for 2016 and offers both a high number of low-voltage LEDs and sound-absorbing capabilities. It is available in two sizes and three colorways to fully adapt to the needs of each room. Hex Creative Systems Lighting Geometric shapes have been popular as of late and can easily be incorporated with this hexagonal fixture, which is available in two sizes and countless finishes. Constructed of a stamped aluminum housing with a molded acrylic lens, this dimmable wall and flush mount is also safe to use in damp or wet locations. Stellina Amerlux The Stellina fixture is made of a 1.5-inch-thick extruded aluminum housing and is available in a variety of customizable options including as a direct pendant, indirect pendant, or low fixture. Additionally it is available in a range of custom color finishes and can be equipped with integrated Enlighted Smart Sensors. Castor Bollard Luminaire Erco This sleek outdoor luminaire can project light either 180 degrees for pathways or a full 360 degrees for open areas and is available in two different sizes. The product’s special Dark Sky technology prevents light from being diffused above the intended area, cutting down on glare.
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San Francisco seeking enhanced landmark protection for one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most significant works

A gestural ramp takes visitors to the upper stories, passing objets d'art nested into built-in niches. A bubbled skylight lets the sun's rays penetrate into an expansive atrium, even on cloudy days. The AIA says the landmarked building is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's 17 essential works. The Guggenheim? Not so much. Wright's only San Francisco building, a city landmark since 1974, sits on Maiden Lane, a quiet side street downtown. The last tenant, Xanadu Gallery, closed up shop last year. Before the next tenant moves in, preservationists are rallying to expand existing landmark protections to include parts of the interior that date to 1948, including the ceiling, a skylit plane comprised of 120 acrylic domes, mahogany display cabinets, and a brass hanging planter. Wright designed the project, one of his only renovations of an existing building, in 1948 for V.C. and Lillian Morris. The couple had a shop on the same street and had previously commissioned Wright to design four houses for them (none were built). The space became the home of the V.C. Morris Gift Shop. Although the exterior, whose arch could be a subtle tribute to Louis Sullivan, is elegant, Wright experts concede that the interior is more architecturally significant. 140 Maiden Lane was a real-world test for the Guggenheim, built in 1959, which Wright conceptualized sixteen years earlier. The skylight hints at Wright's later work, like the 1961 Marin County Civic Center. The Prairie-style homes Wright completed in the Chicago suburbs are echoed in the masonry cliff, muses John King, The San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design critic. When Xanadu Gallery moved into the space in 1997, the owners, Raymond and Marsha Handley, restored many of the interior details that were left to languish in the basement. They consulted preservation experts, including Aaron Green, who with Wright collaborated on the Marin Civic Center. Marsha feels confident that the new owner, a Hong Kong–based investor who also owns Los Angeles's Bradbury Building, will be mindful of this building's significance. It's rumored that the new tenant may be a restaurant, or a European clothing boutique. City Planners have broached the bid for elevated landmark status with the owner's representatives, as they intend to send the revised landmark designation to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in the next few months.
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The Envelope that Pushes Back

crl-arcticfront-550x490 Today’s buildings are entering a new era of change, one that focuses on performance and sustainability. As project stakeholders search for ways to minimize the operating costs and environmental impacts of buildings—not to mention an increased aim for LEED® certification—many architects are now specifying stringent energy performance requirements. Keeping up with ever-evolving energy code requirements and meeting performance specifications presents a moving target, a challenge CRL-U.S. Aluminum has embraced with the launch of the new ArcticFront™ Series 45X High Performance Dual Thermal Storefront System. The ArcticFront 45X delivers optimal thermal performance with the installer-friendly features of a traditional storefront. A key component of the storefront is its dual polyurethane thermal break points that act as a superior thermal barrier and help the system meet energy codes. The ArcticFront 45X Storefront is a center-glazed system that features a 2” x 4-½” thermal frame. It has been tested to the highest industry standards for thermal performance and air leakage per AAMA 1503/507 and ASTM E283. The NFRC-rated ArcticFront™ Series 45X Storefront can produce U-factors ranging from 0.37 using 1" low-E insulating glass, to as low as 0.19 using specially configured insulated glass units. Additional info, specs, and CAD drawings at crl-arch.com/arctic.
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Engineer Nora Wang on the benefits of performance-based design

The increased focus on environmental performance in building design and construction is changing the AEC industry for the better, says Nora Wang, senior engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Performance-based design encourages designers to consider buildings as integrated systems rather than separating the look/function of a building from its energy/environmental performance," she observed. The potential impact on facades is particularly significant. "New buildings with poor envelope design—which may look nice—make it difficult to reduce energy use and expensive to retrofit in the future, even with advanced lighting and HVAC systems installed," said Wang, who will join co-presenters Robert Moje (VMDO Architects) and Roger Flechette III (Interface Engineering) in a session on "Facades and the Environment" at the upcoming Facades+AM DC symposium. As the technical lead of Pacific Northwest's Buildings of the Future initiative, Wang has a front-row seat to the latest developments in "very interesting design strategies and technologies that take passive designs to the next level." She is particularly intrigued by biomimicry and biophilia, in which designers and fabricators look to nature for clues to creating better built environments. "This is extremely important to design resilient buildings and communities," said Wang. Wang is looking forward to Facades+AM DC in part because it provides a venue to discuss the implementation of high performance building envelopes with professionals from multiple disciplines. "I have an architectural background, so I understand the gap between design practice and technology development and the challenges of adopting new strategies/technologies in design," she explained. "I am interested in learning how cutting-edge technologies can be incorporated into design in an innovative way that will drive positive changes without sacrificing other aspects of design needs. Catch up with Wang and earn CEU credits at Facades+AM DC March 10. Register today on the event website.
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Weird, but not so wonderful, says China as it bans “weird” architecture

Question: What has three Arcs de Triomphe, an Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian Sphynx, a Louvre, London Bridge and ten White Houses all over? The answer: China, of course. If the Chinese government has its way, that will soon change.

https://twitter.com/TheMCRsoviet/status/632080629048459264

The duplicate architectural icons may end there as the country's authorities have said no to anymore "oversized, xenocentric, weird" architecture, The New York Times reports. The State Council and the Communist Party’s Central Committee last week stated that there is to essentially be no more copycat architecture, and instead urged new builds to be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye.” The directive also stipulated that "the chaotic propagation of grandiose, West-worshipping, weird architecture" should be ended, while gated communities have also been vetoed.

Guidelines arose after meetings discussed issues regarding the alarming rate of urbanization that China is undergoing. Just two years ago, President Xi Jinping expressed his views on China's architectural scene, again deeming it "weird" saying there was to be "no more weird architecture." He went on to say that the current climate displayed "a lack of cultural confidence and some city officials’ distorted attitudes about political achievements," though only now does action appear to be being taken.

According to a translation by the Wall Street Journal Blog, Yang Baojun, vice director of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design (CAUPA), commented on the directive, saying that "the document is a wake-up call for those places where [there has been] a one-sided pursuit of architectural form over function, where cultural orientation has been compromised by an excessive desire to show off."

The New York Times meanwhile reports that experts have warned of "stricter design standards for public buildings." It also added that, an online forum for the Communist Party newspaper, People's Dailypredicted that "in the future it is unlikely that Beijing will have other strangely shaped buildings like the ‘Giant Trousers’ " referring to the China Central Television Headquarters (CCTV) by OMA.

Feng Guochuan, an architect based in Shenzhen spoke about how the President Xi's words had already begun to have an impact on decision making regarding new projects. He was also worried that Xi was meddling with matters that should only concern urban planners, and not the President. "Generally speaking, local governments now tend to approve more conservative designs," he said.

https://twitter.com/DanLewisNews/status/243113209974890496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

However, Wang Kai, vice president of CAUPA, said these stricture design guidelines would mainly be applied to public schemes, while private projects would still have freedom. "For private housing or commercial projects, there is still space for innovation."

Mr. Wang also added that "we shouldn’t go overboard in pursuit of appearances," going on to say how functionality should be the main concern in public buildings.

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Mecanoo triumphs in Tainan Public Library competition

Dutch firm Mecanoo Architecten has been awarded commission to go ahead with their design for a new public library in Tainan, Taiwan. The practice will work alongside Taiwanese firm MAYU Architects+ for the project that will occupy 376,736 square feet. Aside from being a library, the space will feature a children's area, public courtyard, cafe, conference hall, and a 200-seat auditorium. Within the library area itself will be specialized areas such as reading rooms, special collections, and study spaces. Mecanoo have established a strong pedigree when it comes to the library typology, with the well regarded Birmingham Library in the UK to their name along with another library scheme in the making in Manchester, also in the UK. Their design for the Tainan Public Library (its official title) aims to reflect the merging of cultures, generations, and histories within the site. A selection of natural materials including stone and wood consequently aims to attach the building to its locality. In addition, the city's history will be depicted by an ancient map of Tainan transposed onto vertical louvres. The structure, when taken at a glance, also resembles that of Corbusier's Villa Savoye, though on a bigger scale. Upon closer inspection, one can see the buildings perimeter expand at each level, supported by the stilts that follow the perimeter of the top floor. This system results in a canopy being able to offer shade all around the building, amplifying the threshold between the private interior and public exterior spaces. This schematic also effects the interior configuration too. The surrounding wooden fenestration filters sunlight entering the space, interacting and casting patterns on the stone floor. The building's aesthetic is primarily orthogonal, so a curvaceous staircase offers a nice counter, acting as an anchor and reference point for circulation. An open plan scheme allows for adaptation, and Mecanoo has also allocated 139,930 square feet for future expansion. The project is set to cost $44 million and is due to be open to the public at the close of 2018.
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Texas gun laws prompts Fritz Steiner, dean of UT Austin’s architecture school, to decamp for Penn

Shots fired! Fritz Steiner, the University of Texas at Austin's architecture dean, says that he is leaving his post because of the state's new campus carry laws. Under Steiner, the UT-Austin architecture school has ranked among the best in the country. According to The Texas Tribune, Steiner said that "I would have never applied for another job if not for campus carry. I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn't believe in." What's Texas's loss is Pennsylvania's gain:  When the University of Pennsylvania School of Design approached him last semester about an opening, Steiner was receptive. On July 1, Steiner will become dean of University of Pennsylvania School of Design. For the past 20 years, it's been perfectly legal to carry concealed guns onto campus, but not into campus buildings. Although new campus carry laws were ratified last year, the laws don't go into effect until the first of August. In a state with some of the nation's most liberal gun laws, it's worth noting that the new law does not allow open carry on campus; students, faculty, staff, or visitors must have a handgun license; and the gun owner must be 21 or older. Public universities are allowed to create some limited "gun-free zones," but those zones can't include classrooms. Students for Concealed Carry, a campus group that supports gun rights, criticized Steiner, stating that, essentially, the only thing to fear is fear [of the law] itself. For his part, Steiner is looking forward to returning to the institution from which he earned three degrees: "Penn is a great institution and I am very happy to go to Penn, but I was approached ... and, if it wouldn't have been for campus carry, I wouldn't have considered it."
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Nested, CNC-milled fins produce moire effects

Inspired by lenticular effects and moire patterns, Synthesis Design has produced an engaging facade installation on a large commercial shopping center at Central Plaza Rayong. The system incorporates CNC-milled aluminum composite “fins,” with custom attachment details to produce two “fields” of surfaces that ripple along a precast concrete facade. Color applied to one side of the fins differentiates the to fields from one another. “This is something we’ve been interested in awhile: lenticular effects – visual effects dependent upon view orientation. We are interested in trying to increase the level of visual interactivity through the way people engage the project.” says Alvin Huang, founder of Synthesis Design. To achieve this, Huang and his team leveraged geometry from iterative digital study models. Utilizing scripts built in Grasshopper for Rhino, the team developed a series of surfaces defined by attractor curves that create ripples. Then, through a strategy of mirroring, a secondary field is created, utilizing off-cuts of the first field. The process results in two sets of seemingly unique undulating profiles that nest into one another.
  • Facade Manufacturer PK Aluminium Company
  • Architects Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA Team: Alvin Huang (Principle), Chia-Ching, Filipa Valente, Joseph Sarafian, Kais Al-Rawi, Yuan Yao, & Alex Chan)
  • Facade Installer PK Aluminium Company
  • Facade Consultants Facade Associates Co. LTD
  • Location Rayong, Thailand
  • Date of Completion 2015
  • System 2D CNC plasma cut aluminum profiles with custom clip system on precast concrete
  • Products Aluminum composite material by ALPOLIC Materials of Mitsubishi Plastics Composites America, Inc.
The surfaces start fixed against the building facade. As the surface peels away from the precast facade, steel framework springs from a primary structural tube to cantilever the fin panels. Where the surface attaches to the precast facade, the team incorporated undulations into the profile geometry, allowing for specifically designed points of attachment to the building envelope. This reduces weight of the assembly, but more importantly helps mitigate wind loads on the fins, reducing design loads on the attachment points. “That was a significant issue in the design, because we were essentially creating a series of flags, so anything that can be done to reduce the amount of lateral force on the system helps.” In parallel to the design process, the architects worked with physical models in the office, while the fabricator developed 1:1 scale mockups testing installation details and structural performance of the cantilevered fins. The depth of the fins was optimized to be greatest in the middle where there is continuous support from a primary steel structure, and taper as they extend outward. Huang’s team produced design development drawings, and provided raw geometry for the fabrication team to develop cut sheets representing each individual fin profile. The process is evolutionary to other work being done in the office, says Huang: “We are interested in the Rayong project as an extension of other projects in the office that are three-dimensional products made from flat CNC-milled sheets, assembled to produce form.” What’s next from here? Huang says the office will continue to explore nesting and the attitude of trying to get more from less. “Through these projects, we are getting really interested in this notion of nesting – of trying to significantly reduce or even eliminate waste. Huang calls this “performative patterning” – a focus on how pattern, repetition, and variation promote a visual language of adaptive and varied geometry. “How can we get variation with a finite number of parts, rather than, as in Ryong – all of the profiles are unique – how can we achieve a similar effect with 6 or 7 profiles?”
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The Port Authority declines to celebrate the grand opening of the world’s most expensive train station

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has declined to celebrate the March grand opening of the Santiago Calatrava–designed World Trade Transportation Hub. Why is the agency snubbing its own baby? Because it's monstrously over-budget. The $4 billion taxpayer-financed project cost $1.8 billion more than expected, and construction extended years over schedule. These issues have dogged Calatrava personally and professionally, and cast a shadow on his otherwise bright reputation. Pat Foye, the Port Authority's executive director, told POLITICO New York that the project's been a fiscal fiasco from the start: “Since I arrived here, I have been troubled with the huge cost of the Hub at a time of limited resources for infrastructure so I’m passing on the [now-cancelled opening] event.” The Hub is expected to serve 100,000 daily passengers, far fewer than the Port Authority Bus Terminal (230,000), Grand Central (750,000), and Penn Station (906,708). In a follow up statement, Foye was unequivocal about what New York's newest piece of public infrastructure represents to him: “The thing is a symbol of excess.”   In an interview with AN last year, Calatrava delineated the project's design goals and ethos behind the Hub:
I tried from the very beginning to do that whole network of connections extending from the oculus as a single unit. So the character of the structural members you can see with the ribs, and a certain character in the paving, and a certain character in the front of the shops is already delivering a character that a person will see all the way through. So if you are in the oculus or the mezzanine, or in the other corridors to Liberty Street or the other internal streets towards Liberty Plaza, or towards Wall Street or towards Fulton, all these areas are marked with the same character. My goal is to create a space where as soon as I arrive in the transportation hub I know I am in the transportation hub, no matter what corner I enter from. Also, something that the corridor delivers is a sense of quality of spaces. I have built seven of the major transportation hubs in Europe, in Lisbon, in Lyon, in Zurich, in Italy, and so on. Getting out of this experience, it’s very important to create places of quality, because people behave according to that. You see after all the enormous effort to bring all the subways and the trains to this place and see to maintain the service through all the construction—why shouldn’t these places have a certain material and structural quality that you can enjoy in a day-to-day way, not just commuters but visitors who arrive in this place. I think the station will match with the tradition in New York of great infrastructural works, as you see today in Grand Central and in the former Penn Station. If it had not been demolished it would be recognized as one of the greatest stations worldwide. I hope people can see some of these material qualities in the East/West corridor.
On the eve of the opening, New York architecture critics are divided on the aesthetic and functional value of the Hub. AN toured the Hub this afternoon, so check back here for our assessment. In the meantime, picture Calatrava riding a Zamboni, polishing the smooth white Italian marble floors world's most expensive train station.
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Facades+NYC keynote Odile Decq wins Jane Drew Prize

Architect Odile Decq, director of Paris-based Studio Odile Decq, has won the 2016 Jane Drew Prize for "her outstanding contribution to the status of women in architecture." Past recipients of the award, administered by Architects' Journal, include Grafton Architects' Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara (joint awardees, 2015), Kathryn Findlay (2014), Eva Jiřičná (2013), and Zaha Hadid (2012). Decq's recent work includes the Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark  Museum in Nanjing, China (2015), the form of which was inspired by the slope of the site; and the Saint-Ange Residency in Seyssins, France (2015), winner of the Blueprint Award for best non-public project. Decq, whose multidisciplinary office boasts a portfolio ranging from plans for social housing to high-tech lighting fixtures, will deliver the opening keynote address at April's Facades+ NYC conference. Decq's interest in the field of high performance building envelopes dates back over 25 years, she explained. "Before the 1990s, facades were composed by architects as holes in a wall," said Decq. "Thanks to [developments in] glass technology and, specifically, the screwed and suspension systems developed by [Irish structural engineer] Peter Rice—who did the first suspended facade in Paris at the end of the 1980s—facades have become surfaces." Decq's first large commission, the Banque Popular de l'Ouest in Rennes (1990, in collaboration with with Peter Rice), features the first facade built using double-glazed suspended glass with external sun shades. Since then, she said, "I have been interested in the facade considered as a transparent surface to which layers outside and inside can be added." Some such additions occur inside the glazing itself, as at the MACRO, Contemporary Museum in Rome (2010); others consist of attached components, such as louvres, that create a sense of depth. "As [in] Alice in Wonderland, the way through the looking glass transforms our vision," concluded Decq. Meet Decq and other award-winning designers, fabricators, builders, and academics at Facades+ NYC. Learn more and register today on the conference website.