KieranTimberlake has long pushed the boundaries of conventional facade design. The Philadelphia-based firm started using pressure-equalized rain screen systems in the 1980s, well before other architects brought the technology on board. Their Melvin J. and Claire Levine Hall, at the University of Pennsylvania (2003), was the first actively ventilated curtain wall in North America. The designers at KieranTimberlake have introduced new materials and assemblies, such as the SmartWrap building skin deployed at Cellophane House, part of MoMA’s Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling exhibit. One of the firm’s latest projects, the Embassy of the United States, London, incorporates an outer envelope of three-dimensional ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) panels with integrated photovoltaic cells. Thus founding partner James Timberlake speaks from experience when he calls out the American AEC industry for a lack of attention to high-performance building envelopes. “We see performance—not only of the building, put particularly the facade—as being a critical element of architecture, and of the long-term sustainability of not only architecture but building in general,” said Timberlake. “We think that architects, manufacturers, and contractors need to be thinking innovatively in that way as they help build the future of not only North America, but China and Europe as well.” For Timberlake, who will deliver the keynote address at next month’s facades+ Chicago conference, the missing link is production. “I think the United States and North American market has abrogated its duty to produce high-performance, sustainable, and affordable facade choices over the last four decades,” he said. “The last time we produced anything that was innovative was in the late 1960s. Since then, all of that production went to Asia and Europe. I think it’s now time to make that stuff here.” Moving facade manufacturing back to the United States would benefit manufacturers and designers as well as the economy in general, says Timberlake. “The President of the United States has, in the last few weeks, put out a clarion call for manufacturing to return to the USA rather than offshoring. I think we can be competitive; I think we should be producing innovative wall strategies here,” he said, noting the potential impact on unemployment. “There have always been [American] companies that have been innovative with bespoke strategies, but at this point they are considered niche constructors. In the long term we would like to see those niche manufacturers expand their market reach to be the distributors for some of these other types of facade strategies, or even return to producing the kinds of curtain walls that made the Lever House and Mies van der Rohe’s buildings in Chicago, and made the gleaming skyscrapers of LA.” Architects, said Timberlake, would benefit from greater integration and lower labor and shipping costs were facade manufacture to relocate from abroad. The key to reintegrating facade manufacture and production, argued Timberlake, is demonstrating the existence of a market for cutting-edge envelopes. “They need to see that the design and engineering capability is here in the United States,” he said. “Three-dimensional design used to be the purview of Europe and Asia, but over the last five to ten years American architects and engineers have become quite capable of working three dimensionally. We’re turning out three dimensional designs and engineering solutions that are unique and innovative in terms of their technology, and also are affordable solutions and quite sustainable.” As proof that it can be done, Timberlake points to auto companies, including Volkswagen and Tesla, that have recently set up production centers in the United States. “I don’t see curtain walls and facades any different from that,” he said. “There’s a robust labor market ripe for that to be rolled out here.” Timberlake admitted that his concern with the building-products supply chain might strike some as unusual. “What architect thinks about that? We do,” he said, referencing KieranTimberlake’s history of integrating design and research. “We see economy as a part of design; design incorporates economy. You have to think about the market, sustainability, affordability, production, and manufacture. You have to think about how good it looks, and you have to think about whether you can get it to the marketplace.”
Posts tagged with "U.S. Embassy in London":
Three years after an unsuccessful bid for a chance to design the U.S. Embassy in London, Morphosis Architects has won a different Department of State project: a new Embassy for Beirut, Lebanon. The firm was selected from a shortlist that also included Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Mack Scogin Merrill Elam/AECOM. The new Embassy will be located near the current facilities in Awkar, roughly seven miles from Beirut. The Embassy moved away from the capital in 1983, following a suicide bomb attack that killed 49 Embassy staff. A second bombing in 1984 killed 11. Restrictions on American travel to Lebanon were not lifted until 1997, seven years after the official end of the Lebanese civil war. U.S. Department of State spokesperson Christine Foushee said that while the history of the Embassy in Beirut is unique, the security requirements of the new building will not differ significantly from other Embassy projects. Every major project built by the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) must meet certain security standards in order to qualify for funding from Congress, she explained. The OBO put out a public call for submissions as part of its Excellence in Diplomatic Facilities initiative. “All of the designers that were short-listed, we feel, are very capable of incorporating [security] requirements,” Foushee said. “The real challenge, and the place where we were looking for innovation and creativity, was ensuring that the security requirements were met, but were integrated seamlessly into the design.” After seeing Morphosis’s proposal, the selection committee was confident that the firm would design a secure Embassy that “doesn’t look like a fortress,” she explained. The firm’s commitment to sustainability also impressed the OBO committee. According to Foushee, sustainable design, including planning for storm water and waste water management, is especially important in a project, like the new Embassy, that includes a housing component. Morphosis furthermore demonstrated an understanding of the OBO’s need for flexible interiors. “We have a need for sometimes accommodating a quick surge in staff,” Foushee said. An adaptable design will allow the Embassy to provide housing and office space for extra employees without additional construction. Finally, the design selection committee appreciated Morphosis’ experience working with technologies including 3D modeling. Integrating technology into the design process “is important for controlling costs, but also ensuring the quality of the project,” Foushee said. The design contract for the Beirut Embassy will be awarded during FY 2014, either before the new year or at the start of the 2014 calendar year, Foushee said. The construction contract will be awarded during FY 2016.