Posts tagged with "VernerJohnson":

This fiery natural history museum integrates dynamic, color-shifting materials

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The Museum at Prairiefire, located 20 miles south of Kansas City, Missouri, is designed as a regional civic hub containing educational traveling exhibits from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The project, designed by Boston-based museum architecture and planning firm Verner Johnson, was inspired by one of the most unique aspects of the Kansas tallgrass prairie: the prairie fire burns. These controlled fires, which can be traced back to Native Americans, suppress invasive plants that help rejuvenate native grasses, promoting plant and animal diversity.   
  • Facade Manufacturer Millennium Forms (metal panels); Goldray Industries (dichroic glass); US Stone (Kansas limestone); Echelon Cordova Stone (engineered stone)
  • Architects Verner Johnson
  • Facade Installer Lovell Sheet Metal (metal panels); JPI Glass (dichroic glass); D&D Masonry (stone)
  • Facade Consultants n/a
  • Location Overland Park, KS
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System steel frame with metal panel, curtain wall glazing, and stone veneer
  • Products Millenium Forms Flat Lock Panel in bright annealed and mill finish with Bronze Gold, Peacock, and Burgundy colors; Goldray Industries Dichroic Laminated Glass with 3M film (dichroic glass); US Stone (Kansas limestone); Echelon Cordova Stone (engineered stone)
The project involves two box-like volumes connected by a free-form volume of space clad with color-shifting materials compositionally organized to evoke flame bursts and spark-like effects. The faceted nature of the building perimeter, paired with a unique material palette of dichroic glass and iridescent metal panels, produces a dynamic envelope that changes with varying environmental light conditions. Jonathan Kharfen, Principal at Verner Johnson, said the concept to evoke fire was a core focus of the design team from very early on in the project. "If you have a strong concept, then all of your decision-making must support that concept—details, massing, materials—everything." Narrow tube columns are spaced 25” apart, encouraging people to stand between them. The architects say this apparent lack of structure makes the Great Hall volume float, expand around corners, and dynamically engulf the visitor. This structure is employed as support for the building envelope which consists of a structural silicone glazed system (SSG) of fixed insulated glass units (IGU) and a stick-built insulated exterior wall with metal panel cladding. Dichroic film is a transparent material that appears to change color when viewed from various angles. By faceting the plan geometry of the exterior walls, a wide range of color was achieved by one type of film. The film is laminated between two sheets of glass, which is placed into an IGU assembly. "As far as we know, dichroic has never been used in this way," said Kharfen. The glass units are compositionally arranged within a standard flat seam cladding system of metal panels. The color effects of these panels are produced by an electrochemical reaction between stainless steel and chromium oxide which builds up the material to specific depths. Ultimately, four different colors with various finishes were used on the project. The distribution of the tiles in a "paint-by-number" tiling pattern was determined by the architects well ahead of the final installation. "There was a lot of work that went into developing languages of the glazing and metal panels," he said. "To get to a realization of the concept you are working with is a long process—and to me, it's a process of developing a language with that material that evokes what you're trying to communicate." The dynamism of the metal panels and dichroic glass is cast against a stone veneer backup wall composed of a color mix that has been arranged in a gradient coursing. Bands of stone with specific percentages of color mixes helped to translate this concept into reality. The bottom 15 feet of wall shifts from limestone to an engineered stone product, which embeds into an undulating landscape that surrounds the building.

VernerJohnson Sets Museum Ablaze with Dichroic Glass

Faceted facade evokes regenerative prairie burns.

For most projects, admits VernerJohnson's Jonathan Kharfen, architects steer clear of evoking a potentially destructive force like fire. But Museum at Prairiefire, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) outpost in Overland Park, Kansas, proved an exception to the rule. Because Prairiefire houses AMNH's traveling exhibits, its content is constantly changing, and thus provided little guidance in terms of an overarching design concept. Kharfen instead looked to the location. "What is the area about?" he asked. "For me the first thing that came to mind were the prairie burns. Coming from Boston, I'd never seen anything like it." Using dynamic materials including dichroic glass and iridescent stainless steel, VernorJohnson crafted a faceted high performance envelope that embodies the color, movement, and regenerative power of fire. Not long after landing on the fire metaphor, said Kharfen, "I knew of a couple of materials that would be perfect, because for me it's all about movement and light." He began researching dichroic glass, a composite glass that changes colors depending on the angle of view. The museum's sustainability goals—the project is targeting LEED Silver—dictated that the material would double as an insulating unit, the first such application in the United States. But that presented an additional challenge, as products with the dichroic properties embedded in the glass itself would break the budget. To lower costs, the architects collaborated with fabricator Goldray Industries to design an assembly incorporating dichroic film from 3M. The solution turned out to be an aesthetic boon as well as a cost-cutter, as the film itself carries a flame-like pattern. "It's subtly dimply, it's animated, it's beautiful," said Kharfen.
  • Facade Manufacturer Goldray Industries (dichroic glass), Millennium Tiles (metal panels), Kawneer (curtain wall framing, window and door frames)
  • Architects VernerJohnson
  • Facade Installer JPI Glass (glazing), Loveall Custom Sheet Metal (metal panels), D&D Masonry (stone)
  • Facade Consultant Structural Engineering Associates (structural engineering)
  • Location Overland Park, KS
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System dichroic glass veneer curtain wall with custom framing, LIC stainless steel panels, masonry
  • Products Goldray Industries custom dichroic glass using 3M dichroic film, Millennium Tiles LIC stainless steel panels, Kawneer custom curtain wall framing and door and window frames, Kansas limestone, Northfield Block Company architectural cast stone
Kharfen's team paired the dichroic glass with a second shape-shifting material, Light Interference Coated (LIC) stainless steel, ultimately applying panels in a variety of color and finish combinations. "With the stainless steel, I wanted to create [the appearance of] flame bursts and sparks," explained Kharfen. "I didn't want to apply it in a random way." Instead, the architects arranged the panels in a gradient, with blue (near the bottom) giving way to burgundies and reds and finally to golden yellow. For Kharfen, it was not enough that the materials themselves convey a sense of life and movement. "I wanted them to be dynamic shapes, dynamic in plan as well as in elevation," he said. His solution—a faceted curtain wall—upped the project's technical ante. To avoid cluttering up the lobby space with columns, Kharfen worked with structural engineers Structural Engineering Associates to design a custom support system of stainless steel tubes fronted by angled mullions, to which the curtain wall is attached as a veneer. To accommodate the 14 unique angles involved in the faceting, curtain wall manufacturer Kawneer developed a new adjustable mullion, a hinged plate with a 180-degree range of movement. Given the museum's ever-changing content, the architects treated the exhibit spaces as "black boxes," said Kharfen. "For the solid areas I wanted to evoke the overlapping, curved forms of the hills." The client, Fred Merrill of Merrill Companies, loved the stonework at VernorJohnson's Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, Kansas, which suggests striated rock formations. "He asked, 'Can't we just do that here?'" recalled Kharfen. "I said, 'No, we're going to do something different.' I wanted a gradient." To cut costs and simplify installation, the architects whittled a more complex scheme down to a mix of two different stones in each band, with the bands varying in width. Again, the referent is fire: the walls begin with a charcoal-colored architectural cast stone before moving through Kansas limestone in shades of red, brown, gold, and off-white. Together, the stone-clad exhibit halls and the lobby curtain wall complete the picture of a prairie burn. "I wanted the fire elements to engulf and connect the solid volumes," said Kharfen. "I did them as lines of fire, because, historically, that's how these fires were set." But while the burn metaphor extends to every level of detail, including the flicker-flame-inspired sloping at the tops of the doors and windows, for the project architect the museum design ends where it began: with the primary materials. Speaking again of the dichroic glass, he concluded, "I cannot think of a material that looks more like fire than this glass."