Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University has released an early look at the first of several academic buildings planned for the school’s upcoming Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia. Per a press announcement, new renderings of the glass-sheathed, 300,000-square-foot building were filed with the city earlier this month as part of the Development Special Use Permit submittal process. Designed and engineered by Detroit-headquartered SmithGroup, the campus’s inaugural building, Academic 1, is expected to break ground in 2021 and open to Virginia Tech students and faculty in the fall of 2024. The building will be dedicated to research and instructional spaces for graduate-level programs in Computer Science and Computer Engineering as well as other “select” programs. “Experiential learning environments within this building will be designed to enhance the Virginia Tech experience,” according to the school, and include “flexible multi-purpose areas, research and testing labs, and maker space.” Lance Collins, incoming vice president and executive director of the Innovation Campus, referred to the building in a statement as a “bellwether for what we are trying to achieve through our new campus, creating a place that provides the space and environment to foster collaboration and the creation of bold new ideas.” Topped with a photovoltaic array and clad in a metal- and glass-heavy facade with integrated solar cells, the building’s distinctive form was calibrated for maximum solar power generation. In addition to harvesting energy from the sun, it will also feature wastewater energy exchange and geothermal energy systems. In addition to the aforementioned ultra-sustainable features, connecting to surrounding (future) parks and green space on the campus played heavily into the building’s design. And because this is Virginia Tech, the building could potentially incorporate the same grey dolomite limestone—the famous “Hokie stone”—that has defined the architectural landscape of the school’s Blacksburg campus since its beginnings in 1872. Academic 1 is obviously a far cry from the main campus’s bevy of historic, Hokie Stone-y Collegiate Gothic buildings, but SmithGroup and university staff are reportedly “exploring the use” of the material in the new building’s base as a way to “balance the glass and metal facades with the warmth and solidity of natural stone.” In early 2019, WTOP News reported that the campus would be “Hokie stone optional.” “We will really work to build buildings consistent with the look and feel we’re going for,” the Washington, D.C.-based outlet reported Brandy Salmon, managing director of the Innovation Campus, as saying during a 2019 panel. “Probably something modern in design, without being too modern—and just beautiful places to be.” Noting that the use of Hokie stone would not be mandatory at any Innovation Campus buildings, Salmon added: “I would imagine there will be at least a touchstone of Hokie Stone here. You’ll certainly have the opportunity to come and touch stone, if needed.” In addition to Academic 1, the Innovation campus, located two miles from Amazon’s new HQ2 complex at National Landing and nearly 300 miles from Blacksburg, will include three other buildings situated on four acres within phase one of the innovation-centric North Potomac Yard mixed-use development, which will eventually encompass 65 acres. In addition to Virginia Tech’s Amazon-adjacent new campus, phase one of North Potomac Yard will also include commercial and retail-topping residential space. Virginia Tech first announced plans for its Innovation Campus as part of the state’s bid to lure Amazon to the D.C. metro area during the tech giant's headline-grabbing quasi-search for a home for H2Q.
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Aaron Betsky, the curator and critic who is leaving his position as president of the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) when the spring semester concludes in May, has been appointed as the director of the School of Architecture + Design within Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies. He begins on June 20. Betsky’s predecessor, Hunter Pittman, will transition into the role of associate professor within the school, which is one of four that comprise the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies alongside the School of Visual Arts, the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, and the School of International and Public Affairs. “Aaron is a proven leader with demonstrated dedication to cross-disciplinary exploration, academic excellence, and educational innovation,” said Richard Blythe, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, in a statement released by Virginia Tech. “His international standing and connections in architecture and design are considerable and will undoubtedly help the college expand its global reach, activities, and influence.” Betsky was tapped by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in January 2015 to serve as dean at SoAT, and successfully lead the school, formerly known as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, through a turbulent period of pedagogical and financial uncertainty. From 2017 onwards, he served as president of SoAT which, for now, will remain open following a recent reversal of the board’s January 25 vote to permanently shutter it. Before taking on leadership roles at SoAT, Betsky served at the long-running director of the Cincinnati Art Museum (2006-2014), director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam (2001-2006), and curator of architecture, design, and digital projects at the San Francisco Museum of Art (1995-2001). In 2008, he served as artistic director of the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale. Betsky, also a prolific lecturer and author who has never shied from sometimes-controversial opinion, has also held teaching positions at the University of Cincinnati, the Taubman School of Architecture and Design at the University of Michigan, Southern California Institute of Architecture, and others. His books include Queer Space (1997), Architecture Must Burn (2000), Landscrapers: Building with the Land (2002), and Architecture Matters (2017) alongside a number of monographs on architects including Zaha Hadid, MVRDV, and I.M. Pei. A regular contributor to Dezeen and a blogger for Architect Magazine, Betsky has also written on art and architecture for a wide range of publications including Architectural Record, Architectural Digest, ArtForum, AN, and the New York Times. “I’m very excited about the opportunities offered by Virginia Tech,” said Betsky in a statement. “The School of Architecture + Design in particular has a stellar history of experimentation and leveraging its position within a land-grant institution to serve its many communities—particularly in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but also beyond. I look forward to furthering the school’s commitment to using technology as a tool to build better cities and steward the landscapes we inhabit in ways that are not only beautiful, but also deeply sustainable for our planet into the future.”
New housing is coming to Times Square, at least temporarily. The Virginia Tech team of students and faculty behind the FutureHAUS, which won the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018, a competition supported by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and U.S. Department of Energy, will bring a new iteration of its solar-powered home to New York for New York Design Week in collaboration with New York City–based architects DXA Studio. The first Dubai iteration was a 900-square-foot prefab home, that, in addition to being entirely solar powered, featured 67 “futuristic devices,” centered around a few core areas including, according to the team’s website: “entertainment, energy management, aging-in-place, and accessibility.” This included everything from gait recognition for unique user identities and taps that put out precise amounts of water given by voice control to tables with integrated displays and AV-outfitted adjustable rooms. One of the home’s biggest innovations, however, is its cartridge system, developed over the past 20 years by Virginia Tech professor Joe Wheeler. The home comprises a number of prefabricated blocks or "cartridges"—a series of program cartridges includes the kitchen and the living room, and a series of service cartridges contained wet mechanical space and a solar power system. The spine cartridge integrates all these various parts and provides the “central nervous system” to the high-tech house. These all form walls or central mechanical elements that then serve as the central structure the home is built around, sort of like high-tech LEGO blocks. The inspiration behind the cartridges came from the high-efficiency industrial manufacturing and assembly line techniques of the automotive and aerospace industries and leveraged the latest in digital fabrication, CNC routing, robotics, and 3D printing all managed and operated through BIM software. Once the cartridges have been fabricated, assembly is fast. In New York it will take just three days to be packed, shipped, and constructed, “a testament to how successful this system of fabrication and construction is,” said Jordan Rogove, a partner DXA Studio, who is helping realize the New York version of the home. The FutureHAUS team claims that this fast construction leads to a higher-quality final product and ends up reducing cost overall. The cartridge system also came in handy when building in New York with its notoriously complicated permitting process and limited space. “In Dubai an eight-ton crane was used to assemble the cartridges,” explained Rogove. “But to use a crane in Times Square requires a lengthy permit process and approval from the MTA directly below. Thankfully the cartridge system is so versatile that the team has devised a way to assemble without the crane and production it would've entailed.” There have obviously been some alterations to the FutureHAUS in New York. For example, while in Dubai there were screen walls and a courtyard with olive trees and yucca, the Times Square house will be totally open and easy to see, decorated with plants native to the area. The FutureHAUS will be up in Times Square for a week and a half during New York’s design week, May 10 through May 22.
Virginia Tech students demonstrate a light touch with glass and steel pavilion.The undergraduate architecture students enrolled in Virginia Tech's design/buildLAB begin each academic year with an ambitious goal: to bring a community service project from concept through completion by the end of the spring semester. In addition to the usual budget and time constraints, the 15 students taking part in the course during the 2013-2014 school year faced an additional challenge. Their project, a public pavilion for Clifton Forge Little League in the tiny hamlet of Sharon, Virginia, was entirely lacking in contextual cues. "It was interesting because our previous design-build projects have been downtown, with lots of context," said Keith Zawistowski, who co-founded and co-directs design/buildLAB with his wife, Marie. "Instead, we had a pristine, grassy field with a view of the mountains. We joke that this is our first group of minimalists." The students' understated solution—three geometric volumes unified by the consistent use of a vertical sunscreen—turns the focus back to the pavilion's surroundings with a restrained material palette of concrete, glass, and steel. Design/buildLAB assigned a separate structure to each element of the Sharon Fieldhouse program, nestling the open-air public pavilion between glass boxes containing the restrooms and concessions kitchen. Different roof heights distinguish the spaces, yet a common material vocabulary and their arrangement along a single horizontal axis allows them to be read as a single object. "The students describe the field house as a linear incision through the site," said Zawistowski. "Basically it's just light cut through the green landscape." Because Sharon Fieldhouse is intended for seasonal use, the students focused on maximizing environmental performance for the warmer months of the year. "Everything's about cooling and ventilation," said Zawistowski. A no-energy ceiling fan cools the kitchen, and tempered laminated white glass helps cut solar gain inside the enclosed areas. "The glass has a translucent quality, so that the spaces are bathed in even light, eliminating the need for electrical lights during the day," explained Zawistowski. The external sunshade, comprising vertical steel plate elements painted white, serves both conceptual and practical ends. "The shade screen is about intimacy and privacy—not just under the open-air pavilion but in the enclosed spaces," said Zawistowski. "The elements vary in density. They're tighter together toward the more private parts of the building." At the same time, larger gaps between the screen's members on the east side of the pavilion welcome in the morning sun, while to the west the steel bars draw together to provide afternoon shade. The screen simultaneously functions as skin and structure. "In most cases, the sunshade is tacked on. In this case it's part and parcel of the architecture," observed Zawistowski. Wider steel bars take the weight of the building's roof, and help conceal downspouts. "Everything is hidden there in the screen," said Zawistowski. "We brought a new group of students to the field house and asked them if they could figure out how rainwater could get off the roof. They didn't know." The students prefabricated portions of the pavilion at Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus, panelizing the screen members and roofing. "One thing that bothers us in design-build education is that multiple generations tend to work on one project," said Zawistowski. "It's important for us that the same group sees the implications of what they design, so we rely really heavily on prefabrication." On campus, he added, students are able to take full advantage of the university's resources. Once on site in Sharon, the students completed assembly in just a couple of weeks. Given the fact that his students conceived of, fundraised for, programmed, planned, designed, and built Sharon Fieldhouse in less than ten months, it's no surprise that Zawistowski refers to the supernatural when he talks about the project. But when he brings up hocus-pocus, it is as much about the pavilion's aesthetic impression as it is about the speed with which it was brought into being. "We say that it's put together with magic," he mused. "All the connections are hidden—everything's just light and shadow."
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A motorized green wall that reads the weather and adjusts automaticallyTwo years ago six students and three faculty from Virginia Tech's School of Architecture + Design spent three weeks at SOM's Chicago office applying industrial fabrication solutions to the problem of high density housing for Southworks, a housing development that's currently being planned for a large vacant section south of the city. The result was LumenHAUS, an aggressively energy efficient home that won the international Solar Decathlon Competition that June for sustainable solutions to high density construction. LumenHAUS is not only net zero, it actually creates more energy than it uses by implementing, among other innovations, a modular system that autonomously responds to external weather information and internal environmental conditions to optimize energy use. This Fall Virginia Tech's Center for Design Research will begin construction on a full scale prototype of six housing modules, including a working prototype of Hanging Garden, a dynamic plant wall that reads the weather and responds by sliding along the walls and windows to either block or allow sunlight into the living unit. Hanging Garden combines automated shading control with the emerging demand for urban garden space. Each unit is composed of a series of planters and and can be configured into one of three scenarios: (1) fully nested against the side walls of the south facing projecting balcony, (2) partially deployed to protect the balcony from east or west light or wind or (3) fully deployed and aligned with the outer face of the balcony (rotated 90 degrees). Each unit can automatically adjust to accommodate changing weather patterns, plant type and user demands by means of an actuated track system provided by Hafele. Two ceiling mounted tracks run parallel to each other until the garden reaches the outer balcony. At this point the slave trolley follows the radial track and sends the garden plane horizontally along the outer edge of the balcony. "The plant wall system is integrated into our ‘responsive architecture’ smart home building control system, which was developed for the LumenHAUS," said Virginia Tech faculty member Joe Wheeler. "With real time data from both the house-mounted weather station and from interior environment sensors, the computer can detect when shading is needed or when direct solar gain is needed. For example, on a summer day when the system is in cooling mode, exterior temperatures are high and the daylight sensors detect full sun, plant walls are deployed into the full shade position along electronically controlled motorized tracks." The Hanging Garden system can be built into a larger outdoor garden patio configuration that allots two outdoor spaces on either end of the main living module. During warmer months the patio can be opened up completely, providing cross ventilation. In colder months they can be closed to act like greenhouses and serve as insulating buffers to the indoor space, becoming passive mechanisms of energy efficiency. Even those whose thumbs are anything but green can easily keep their Hanging Garden growing year-round, thanks to the self-watering system - also a great feature for when you're out of town. "When the plant walls are in their "home" position, a reservoir is refilled by a ceiling mounted valve," Wheeler explained. "The reservoir directs water to each individual pot on the wall and a floor drain in the balcony collects any overflow." The final product will have a CNC cut steel frame and slip cast ceramic pots, but the prototypes for the six modular units will be made from MDF, an odd choice for such an environmentally progressive project, though perhaps the longterm benefits of Hanging Garden, and of the Southworks complex in general will ultimately outweigh a few preliminary MDF models?
Virginia Tech's Solar Decathlon-winning Lumenhaus is currently cooling its heals in the opulent surroundings of Millennium Park. The house, which has been touring the globe, was brought to town to coincide with GreenBuild, and is remaining on view through Saturday. The compact house is efficiently designed both in terms of space and energy use, and is completely self-sustaining. Though its stay in Millennium Park will be brief, it's not going far. The house will be stored on the grounds of the Farnsworth House for the winter and will be open to the public when it reopens for the spring season in April 2011. Whitney French, executive director of the Farnsworth House, sees a deep connection between the two structures. "The design is deduced from the ideas of Farnsworth. It's organized around a utility core with broad views out to the landscape," French said. She also points out that Mies' design take advantages of natural cross ventilation and seasonal changes in sun and shade. And while Farnsworth was revolutionary in its day--and is still considered one of the world's great houses--Lumenhaus is decidedly more high-tech, with the latest in sustainable bells and whistles. It also uses more passive techniques, including rainwater retention ponds and passive heating. The interior is bright and open, a model of efficient, contemporary living. The Lumenhaus won't have to compete directly with the Farnsworth in terms of aesthetics, though. It will be situated near the visitors center, some distance from Mies' materpiece. The Lumenhaus is expected to remain at the Farnsworth site until June, 2011.
If you can't make it to the Hafele showroom tonight for the presentation on lumenHAUS—Virginia Tech's entry to the 2009 DOE Solar Decathlon—don't worry about it. AN was in Times Square last night to get the inside skinny on the solar-powered wonder house. In a quest to reconcile contemporary goals of sustainability with modern architecture, the VT team went beyond solar arrays. They began by studying the Farnsworth House and looking for ways to increase its insulation while maintaining its connection to its surroundings. That inquiry led to the design of a steel-framed glass box outfitted with two layers of sliding panels. The inner panel is made up of two layers of polyethylene filled with expanded silica gel—a highly insulating material that is lighter than air and translucent. The outer panel is a stainless steel sun and severe weather screen outfitted with perforations to allow some light through. Together with the glass wall these layers deliver an awesome insulation value of R24. LumenHAUS is outfitted with sensors that will adjust the panels to optimize energy usage in the house. At any time, of course, residents can override the system not only from a central control panel and manual switches, but also remotely through an iphone application. The house opens to two decks, one on the north and one on the south, increasing the potential living area during clement weather. Inside, the tiny 600-square-foot layout was planned with space conservation in mind. Various items of furniture move and transform to serve a variety of functions: A high shelf pulls away to reveal the kitchen counter while itself becoming a side table for the dining area. The bedroom's closets slide aside to reveal the TV and close off that portion of the home for privacy. The lumenHAUS is intended to be a prefabricated living system and modular, so that you can add other pieces on and stack them in a variety of configurations. The house also becomes its own transportation device. Diagonal steel members can be added to the frame making the building a truss, then a wheel assembly pins to a steel member at the rear of the house, and at the front a similar attachment is made to interface with a big rig. Within a matter of minutes the house can be outfitted to move. When it arrives at it site it is lowered onto eight concrete piers, making a minimal impact upon the earth.
If you didn't have a chance to make it down to D.C. for the 2009 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, now is your chance to make up for it. Starting today and running through Sunday, Virginia Tech's entry will be on display in Times Square. Known as lumenHAUS, the 800-square-foot single family home is replete with high tech features such as an iPhone interface, smart controls that automatically adjust climate systems, and of course solar power. If any of this peaks your interest, professors from the Virginia Tech School of Art + Design will be giving a presentation tomorrow night from 6:00 to 7:30 at the Hafele showroom, 25 East 26th St.