The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, has announced an open call for a competition to design a memorial honoring the African Americans enslaved by the school upon its founding in 1693 until the Civil War. The public university welcomes conceptual ideas for a physical memorial that provides an area of community and contemplation for students, teachers, and staff to reflect on its former reliance on slave labor. The forthcoming memorial must engage with the school’s Historic Campus, a two-acre, diamond-shaped site situated around The Wren Building—designed by English architect Sir Christopher Wren and the oldest college building still standing in the U.S. The adjacent President’s House and the Brafferton make up the heart of William & Mary’s colonial campus where the memorial may be constructed. “This memorial is such an important project for our community,” said current President Katherine A. Rowe in a press release. “African Americans have been vital to William & Mary since its earliest days. Even as they suffered under slavery, African Americans helped establish the university and subsequently maintained it.” The project falls under the larger umbrella of a long-term initiative by the university to research its own history with slavery. As the second oldest higher education institution in the country, it used slaves for not only construction, maintenance, and service, but for funding the college in general. King William and Queen Mary of England specified in a charter that the school would be built off the profits of slaves working in tobacco fields of Virginia and Maryland. The college even owned its own plantation, the Nottoway Quarter. In 2007, the William & Mary Student Assembly called for the college’s Board of Visitors (BOV) to create a commission to research the full depths of its contributions to slavery. They also asked that a public memorial be built as an apology and as a source of remembrance. Under the purview of The Lemon Project, which the BOV established in response, the school has been exploring these ties to slaveholding as well as its current relationship with the African-American community of Williamsburg, Virginia, for several years. Sponsored classes, research studies, symposia, and more have encouraged students and faculty to spread awareness and dive deep into the topic despite its difficult truths. The Lemon Project Committee on Memorialization (LPCOM) was founded out of this commitment after a fall 2014 course where students considered how a memorial design might convey the history and memory of the school’s racially fraught past. The committee has spent the last several years discussing how to best approach the memorial competition, which was announced last week. Interested participants must submit a design plan and a 500-word description of their concept by October 12 at 5 p.m. To learn more about the submission process, go here. A jury of alumni, staff, faculty, and students will choose three ideas to show President Rowe, upon which, if the design is ready, she will share with the BOV during its February 2019 meeting.
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Ahead of its official opening on April 21, AN toured the luminescent Steven Holl Architects-designed Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. Though the ICA uses a simple material palette–zinc, raw concrete, translucent glass, and splashes of wood–it becomes more than the sum of its parts thanks to smart siting decisions that put natural light on display as much as the artwork. The concept of the past, present and future mingling together informed the “branching paths” shape of the building, the dual entrances (one towards the VCU campus and the other towards the city itself) and the finish details. In Holl’s own words, the building was conceived as a nexus between past and future, with “forking time” as the project’s central design tenant. Across the 41,000-square-foot space, each of the three gallery spaces, one on each floor, extend and rotate as they rise. From the exterior, the ICA can appear monolithic, as the distinction between its horizontal zinc panels and vertical frosted glass windows can disappear on cloudy days. At night the building glows from within and casts light from the ends of its rectangular volumes into the sculpture garden and the campus beyond. The project sits on the northeastern corner of VCU’s campus, both on top of the historic Elba train station and next to Richmond’s busiest intersection. That embodied kinetic energy extends to the building itself and into dramatic upward-flowing curves, whether in the 33-foot-tall Royall Forum at the entrance or the 33-foot-tall True Farr Luck capstone gallery that’s bounded by a swooping arch. Holl is obviously no stranger to designing light-filled art institutions; this year is the 20th anniversary of the semi-circular Kiasma Museum in Helsinki. As a result, the ICA is designed with exhibitions and flexibility in mind, from the terrazzo ground concrete floors to unfinished concrete-beam-ceilings, affording artists the chance to anchor pieces as they see fit. It’s impossible to separate the institution from the art on display within. The ICA will hold no permanent collection and will instead feature rotating shows of various sizes throughout the year. Not having to worry about how light would affect the art afforded Holl the opportunity to design around the natural daylight cycle, instead of creating diffused, even light throughout. The light from the skylights piercing the first and second-floor galleries ebbs and flows as the sun moves overhead. Many of the installations in the ICA’s inaugural exhibition, Declaration (an examination of how artists can address contemporary social issues), are arranged around these windows, using them as spotlights or for increased ambiance. Nowhere is this usage of light more prominent than in the top-floor gallery, which is sandwiched between a wall of glass on the western front and an elevated window on the eastern side. Besides the space’s enormous height, the most striking feature is how the sun moves from one window to the next over the day, creating a dynamically-lit space that sheds new light on the oversized installations within, depending on what time of day it is. The auditorium stands apart in its material palette, wrapped in cherry wood panels. The building also includes a sculpture garden and reflecting pool, and 8,000 square feet of greenery that covers three of the four gallery roofs. Sustainability considerations also factored heavily into the design, and the ICA is heated and cooled entirely through the use of 43 geothermal wells which radiate warmth up through the floor. The $41 million building is designed to attract passerby with its ground-level clear glass facade at ground level and the zinc-clad building volume lifting up over the entranceway. It also happens to take on new shapes depending on which direction it’s approached from. While it might seem imposing from the sidewalk, visitors will find an organic, constantly changing embrace within. Declaration will run from April 21, 2018, through September 9, 2018, and admission to the ICA is free.
This past week, white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a downtown park. As multiple news sources reported, the rally's violence culminated in chilling brutality when protestor James Fields rammed his car through a crowd of counter-demonstrators on a nearby pedestrian mall, injuring 19 and killing one. It's beyond question that the far right gathered on Saturday to spread hate in a public space. It just so happens, too, that this latest domestic terrorist attack coincides with the city's in-motion plans to redesign two main public parks—including the one with the Lee statue—around justice and equity. Back in June, the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop a master plan that enhances the connection between Justice Park and Emancipation Park, as well as the parks themselves. Located two blocks away from each other, the two parks, formerly named for Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and Lee,* respectively, were sites of this weekend's protests. Among other changes, the city would like to develop better gathering spaces in both parks and memorialize former slaves in Justice Park. To prepare a design, the document asks participating firms to get acquainted with MASS Design Group's Memorial to Peace and Justice, a project in Montgomery, Alabama to honor victims of lynching. The RFP grew out of a report released in August of last year by the Blue Ribbon Commission, a group city officials convened to address race and representation in the city's public spaces. With statues of Confederate generals and a slave auction block in parks, as well as the preserved Reconstruction-era Freedmen’s Bureau, the commission's final report "[acknowledged] that far too often Charlottesville’s public spaces and histories have ignored, silenced or suppressed African American history, as well as the legacy of white supremacy and the unimaginable harms done under that cause." The chosen designer is expected to engage with the community extensively. In Charlottesville, city officials imagine that public history for the 21st century may be illuminated with new art, placemaking initiatives, and wayfinding. Interested? The deadline is approaching fast: Submissions are due this Thursday, August 17. *The park's renaming is in process, pending a court decision later this month.
Boston-based architects Höweler+Yoon, along with Mabel O. Wilson, Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect, and Dr. Frank Dukes, are designing a circular memorial to honor the slaves who helped build The University of Virginia (UVA). The memorial was approved by the UVA's Board of Visitors Buildings and Grounds Committee this past Friday. It is estimated that some 5,000 enslaved people contributed to the erection of the University, which was planned by President Thomas Jefferson two centuries ago. Only a fifth of those who worked on the University's construction have recorded names, almost all of which are singular first names. These will be inscribed on the circular memorial—formally titled the "Memorial to Enslaved Laborers"—and space will be left for further names, should research uncover more. The design features a locally sourced granite circle, with a diameter of roughly 80 feet and rising gradually to a peak of eight feet, that references The Rotunda at the University of Virginia. The architects consulted residents of Charlottesville and worked with the University when drafting their proposal; their efforts included community meetings and a social media campaign. "It was critical that we engage the school and local community to ensure that we heard as many voices as possible, and that we understood what individuals felt the memorial needed to achieve,” said Dr. Frank Dukes, in a press release. The memorial comprises two rings. The larger ring will display the names of enslaved people on the inside as it encases a smaller ring, which will serve as a bench for contemplation and hold a water table. A history of slavery at UVA will also be etched into this inner ring. Marcus Martin, a co-chair of the President’s Commission on Slavery and Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity at UVA, told the Washington Post that the water "will symbolize libation and the transatlantic voyage of the enslaved people." Martin added that he envisions programs and classes being held at the memorial. "I can see gospel choirs singing there. I can see people giving speeches there," he also said. "Students, staff, and faculty will pass by it every day.... They will probably sit there and reflect upon the memorial." UVA, from an architectural perspective, is laced in history. Monticello and UVA are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for example, but Kirt von Daacke, a professor and assistant dean at UVA, said the university aims to address the fact that "Jefferson is both the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the man who founded a radical experiment in higher education in the United States, and a lifelong slaveholder with rather unpleasant views." "I don’t think the university, until the last decade, had really begun to grapple with that reality," he continued, in conversation with the Washington Post. "I’m really excited that we are adding to that landscape." In a separate press release, Meejin Yoon of Höweler + Yoon also stated, “the Memorial is a facet of the University’s commemorative project that involves many people and initiatives, we envision this memorial to embody the ideals of the University which, as Jefferson defined to be, 'to follow truth wherever it may lead.'"
In central Tysons, VA, Gensler's Washington D.C. office has designed a mixed-use building that will house a fitness center, conference spaces, and offices. The latter will sit atop a nine-story, perforated metal-skinned podium that hosts a parking garage. The tactful metal facade bridges the two glass skins above and below it, mediating transparency in the process. At street level, glass fenestration encloses 25,000-square-feet of retail, amid other amenities—a bonus for shoppers stepping off the Greensboro Metro station which is a mere 50 yards away. Duncan Lyons, a senior associate at Gensler's D.C. office, said the building's design is “unique” for a mixed-use project and is “dynamic, yet flexible enough to attract a variety of tenants.” Floor plates will range from 20,000 to 28,000 square feet and the project offers public and private green terracing, shaped as triangles along the building’s stepped back and angled massing. The corresponding volumes are partially defined by skin, too, with various types of glazing being used either side of the parking garage’s metal facade. Above the garage, fritted glass panels—comprising 13 levels—are segmented into two volumes. Both facades employ a pattern of tall vertical piers and openings which link the levels together visually, while, according to Lyons, “providing a different material combination and view experience at each zone of the building.” Meanwhile, below the garage, a glass skin wraps around the corner edges facing onto the street. Due to the topography of the site, the glazing follows steps that run down the northside, westwards, and onto an entrance to the Greensboro Metro Station. This journey allows pedestrians to see more of the building’s street level interior as they go down, with entrances to this double-height space at both the top and bottom of the steps. “Within each zone, amenity spaces, collaboration areas, and extended terraces provide numerous interior and exterior experiences,” said Lyons. “It all adds up to a rich mixture; brings life, character, and vitality to the building; and makes the project a singular attractor,” he continued. “[The] design experience supports the continued growth of transit-oriented development and true place-making at Tysons Corner in the most responsive, distinctive, and adaptable way.” Duncan Lyons will be a co-chair for the Facades+AM conference in D.C. this March 9. He and Jeff Barber—design leader and principal and Gensler—will be speaking about this project in further detail. Seating is limited. To register, go to am.facadesplus.com.
200 years ago, Richmond, Virginia, was home to the largest slave penitentiary in the United States: Lumpkin's Jail. The slave holding facility, also known at the time as “the Devil’s half acre,” held the title for more than twenty years and was a hub for the country's slave trade. Two centuries on, and after much deliberation, Richmond has decided to move forward with plans memorialize the site where many slaves were once held and lost their lives. In doing so, authorities have recruited the architecture firm SmithGroupJJR. The Detroit-based practice recently worked on David Adjaye's much celebrated National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., being named as "associate design/construction architect." The decision was made by Richmond’s Slave Trail Commission who said they are now ready to lay down some plans. The move has been a long time coming. An emotional Delegate Dolores McQuinn, a Democrat from Richmond, spoke to WVTF Radio. “You know you dream, you pray, you seek direction, input, help, and it’s just phenomenal to be at this place now," she said. News of the plans, however, has not been well received by everyone. Aside from the city's steps to memorialize the site, a large grassroots movement has been running too—though the two haven't always shared the same view. According to WVTF, criticism has fallen on the city for not including a nearby African burial ground in the memorial. Ana Edwards, a leading figure of the grassroots movement, spoke positively of the news. "This is a very good first step, and it is a logical first step," she said. "Our primary goal is that they protect the rest of the footprint, so that it will be there when the funds are available for that development to take place." While SmithGroupJJR has joined the project, whether the site becomes a memorial and/or museum remains to be determined. This project also comes on the heels of a new museum and a memorial to the victims of lynching in Montgomery, Alabama, set to open in 2017.
The former American Press Institute (API) building, Virginia’s only building designed by architect Marcel Breuer and a noteworthy example of brutalist architecture in the U.S., can be demolished to make way for a residential development, under a ruling made Tuesday by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The board voted unanimously to allow rezoning of a parcel in Reston, Virginia that contains the former API building, a 1974 structure designed by Breuer, and to permit its destruction to make way for a replacement project. Preservationists and historians have argued that the vacant API building on Sunrise Valley Drive is a significant example of Breuer’s work and should be recycled, possibly as a regional library or home for a nonprofit organization. They contend the Breuer building should be saved because it was the first building in Reston designed by an internationally prominent architect, that it was a significant example of Breuer’s sculptural use of precast concrete panels, that it was important in developer Robert Simon’s early plan for Reston, and that it was associated with a long list of noteworthy journalists. More than 1,600 people from North America, South America, and Europe have signed an online petition to preserve the building. Earlier this month, public officials in Atlanta voted to save and renovate Breuer’s central library building there, after it was proposed for demolition. “Fairfax County is fortunate to have a building of such stature designed by a world class architect,” said Carol Ann Riordan, a former API executive who heads a group that mounted an effort to save the building. “It deserves far more than a demolition permit.” The county’s Planning Commission last month voted not to recommend demolition of Breuer’s building, giving preservationists hope that it might avoid the wrecking ball. But county officials said the API building is not protected by any landmark status, that its significance was not noted when planners prepared a plan for higher density development in the area, and that the county has no funds to save it. Supervisors also noted that the housing proposal, by Sekas Homes, is consistent with the county’s plans for Reston and had to be considered on its own merits. Riordan said today that her group will not appeal the decision. “Mounting a legal campaign like that would be costly,” she said.
For once, a Brutalist building gets a stay of execution. The Planning Commission in Fairfax County, Virginia, overruled its own staff recommendation yesterday and voted not to approve a developer’s request to rezone land in Reston so a developer can tear down the only Marcel Breuer-designed building in Virginia to make way for residential development. The planning department staff had recommended demolition of the former American Press Institute headquarters on Sunrise Valley Drive, a 48,000-square-foot building that opened in 1974, and rezoning of the land to make way for multi-family housing. The planning commission voted 6 to 6 on the question of rezoning the property for residential development, and that was not enough for the developer to obtain a demolition permit. Technically, it means that the planning commission forwards the developer’s rezoning application to the county Board of Supervisors with a negative recommendation. The vote came at the end of a sometimes heated hour-long discussion about the importance of the Breuer building and the groundswell of support it has received from preservationists, including an online petition signed by more than 1,300 people from as far away as Europe and South America. Several of the commissioners said they were impressed that the building was getting international attention and so many people wanted to see the building saved. Before the meeting, the commission received a flood of letters, emails and other materials from groups that want to see the building preserved, including the American Institute of Architects and New York architect Robert Gatje, who worked with Breuer for many years. “The world is now aware that this building exists,” said commission member Julie Strandlie. Commissioner James Hart, who studied architecture at the University of Virginia, said he was impressed by a site visit to the building that the group took on June 2. He said the building is in good shape and raved about the acoustics in the conference room. “I was favorably impressed by the use of natural light and shadows,” he said. “It brought the outside indoors” to the extent that some rooms “appeared to have trees in them,” he said. Hart also said the county was wrong not to recognize the Breuer building’s significance. “This was a major screw up,” he said. “I hope this is a wake up call to us that we need to make sure something like this does not happen again.” The commission also voted unanimously to direct the Board of Supervisors staff to conduct a countywide survey of properties to make sure there are no other buildings that deserve protection but don’t have landmark status. Preservationists had argued that the Breuer building should be saved because it was the first building in Reston designed by an internationally prominent architect, that it was a significant example of Breuer’s sculptural use of precast concrete panels, that it was important in developer Robert Simon’s early plan for Reston, and that it was associated with a long list of noteworthy journalists. Carol Ann Riordan, the last director of the American Press Institute (while the organization was in Reston) and founder of a group formed to save the building, praised the commission for its decision not to approve demolition. She said her group wants to see the Breuer building preserved and reused, perhaps by another non profit. “We’re all very pleased and elated that the planning commission took this stance, which was a very brave stance,” Riordan said. “It is an architectural treasure and deserves a second life. It’s part of Reston’s rich tapestry. There is still much work to be done. But the end game is that the API building had a mission—lifelong education, transformation, building community—and we would like to see it passed on to another group that has a mission along these same lines.” Riordan said she was most impressed that planning commission members admitted that the county “screwed up” in not recognizing the significance of the Breuer building and then voted not to support the demolition rather than letting the building be torn down anyway. “It takes a lot of guts to say ‘we screwed up,’” Riordan said. “I find that very courageous.”
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."
Brick and metal transform a tired office block into a residential building worthy of its site.Located on a slice of land adjacent to the Potomac River in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, the 1984 Sheet Metal Workers Union National Pension Fund building failed to live up to the site's potential. "I've used this in a couple of lectures," said Shalom Baranes Associates principal Patrick Burkhart. "I show 'before' photos and ask the audience, 'What is this building?' The answers include: 'It looks like an urban jail.'" When the property came on the market, Maryland-based developer EYA seized the opportunity to transform the waterfront eyesore into a contemporary condominium complex. Clad in brick and metal paneling, with high performance glazing emphasizing views along the Potomac, the Oronoco balances a sleek urban aesthetic with sensitivity to Old Town's historic fabric. Because rowhouses dominate Old Town's residential real estate market, "we thought there was a pent-up demand for one-level living for empty nesters," said EYA senior vice president Brian AJ Jackson. The developers took a "less is more" approach to the conversion, opting for 60 large units over the 110 allowed by the zoning code. They kept the old office building's stepped profile, creating penthouses on multiple levels, but carved out the center of the structure to make way for a courtyard. "The courtyard really gives the project a heart and soul," said Burkhart. "It creates something that's not inward looking, but outward." The Sheet Metal Workers Union building was "originally designed with fairly innovative sustainable ideas, for an office building," said Burkhart—including the stepped terraces, on top of which were solar collectors. "But a lot of it didn't work well." One major deficit was the structure's reduced window openings. During renovation, Shalom Baranes Associates focused on maximizing daylighting and views without sacrificing thermal or acoustic performance, selecting a variety of high performance products from Peerless for the building's glazed areas. Given the Oronoco's location along the flight path to and from Reagan National Airport, "the acoustic glazing is amazing," observed Choptank Communications' Brent Burkhardt. "You hear very little from inside the building, yet you have a neat view of the planes." The building's brick cavity wall offers additional benefits in terms of energy efficiency. "It's our theme to blend in," said Burkhart. "We decided to work with the brick aesthetic" that prevails among Old Town's older residences. The architects broke the building into townhouse-scale bays, wrapping every other bay in metal panels from Alcoa/Reynobond. "It alternates between brick and metal as you go up the steps: brick, then metal and glass, then another brick element. That helps pull you up the height of the building," explained Burkhart. The LEED Silver Oronoco achieves the performance aspirations of its predecessor without neglecting the building's visual appeal—and without taking unnecessary risks. Obtaining LEED certification "is always a little more challenging for residential designs," said Burkhart. "Many of the points are developed simply through a careful selection of materials, instead of choosing more exotic measures."
The Vancouver-based New Buildings Institute (NBI) tracks energy efficient built work, and their 2014 update, “Getting to Zero”, provides a snapshot of the emerging U.S. market for net-zero buildings—those are structures that use no more energy than they can gather on site. In the United States, California leads in the number of low and zero energy projects with 58, followed by Oregon (18), Colorado (17), Washington (16), Virginia (12), Massachusetts (11), Florida (10), Pennsylvania (10), Illinois (8), North Carolina (8), and New York (8). NBI also compiled a database of all their buildings. They say architects and developers interested in pursuing net-zero design could find inspiration there, searching according to their local climate and/or building characteristics. The database includes energy-efficient and high-performance buildings that are not net-zero, as well. Though the trend has succeeded in garnering attention and excitement among many designers, true net-zero buildings remain elusive in the built environment. So far NBI has only certified 37 buildings as net-zero. That ranking is based on performance—each building underwent a review of at least 12 months of measured energy use data. If piece-meal projects aren't yet adding up to a groundswell of net-zero design, NBI is also pushing systemic change—rigorous energy efficiency standards recently adopted in Illinois took cues from the group's Core Performance Guide.