Archive for the 'Adaptive Reuse' Category

01
Jul
08

The Gilman Ordway Campus at Woods Hole

“Building for the Future” is a thorough case study of a high performance building, the Gilman Ordway Campus at Woods Hole Research Center. It lays out the basic principles the design team started with: a tight building envelope, efficient mechanical, lighting and office systems, and the optimization of natural light and ventilation. The Performance Overview section starts by noting that the energy monitoring system provides the numbers for evaluating the performance, a subject that definitely needs research.

The relative dearth of performance data for high performance buildings, combined with the ongoing need to educate the public and design communities about advancements in building technologies and performance, led us to include a whole building energy monitoring and data-logging system in our building design and construction plans.

A network of 75 sensors reports on what goes on throughout the building. The numbers are crunched, and charts are produced which display the current state of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and of the sources and loads of the energy flow, and even of the weather conditions. The comprehensive monitoring system keeps track of the solar thermal system and thermal exchange heat pump and energy recovery units.

Woods Hole is a venerable institution where science, education, and policy all support the prevention of environmental degradation, and especially the stewardship of the earth’s forests. The Gilman Ordway Campus was designed with an ambitious environmental agenda in mind, to produce more energy than it uses, and to do that without using fossil fuels or causing any harm to the surrounding environment or the world at large.

All the design consultants and the people from the Center itself collaborated from the start as a design team. It was especially important, because of the nature of the institution, that forestry concerns be addressed in the best possible way, using sustainably harvested, certified wood. The soils science department of Woods Hole Research Center keeps working to refine the rainwater collection system and the wastewater system, the latter with a denitrifying septic system. One of the intentions was to be sure the project was reproducible, so most of the building systems came from readily available “state-of-the-shelf” technology.

Finished in February and occupied in March of 2003, the Gilman Ordway Campus is the work of William McDonough + Partners with Mark Rylander, who is a partner in the firm, as the project manager. He also teaches at the University of Virginia School of Architecture and has been chairman of COTE (Committee on the Environment) and in 2005 was one of the Solar Decathlon judges. This is an annual competition among teams of college students to design and build houses that are both energy-efficient and attractive.

Rylander wrote the Sustainable Design chapter of Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition and here, from that chapter’s Introduction, are some of the topics it covers:

…site ecology, alternative urban infrastructures, mobility, socially-responsible design, water conservation and treatment, heat island mitigation, energy efficiency, renewable energy integration, design for disassembly, adaptive reuse, recycled, recyclable and reclaimed materials, healthy material redesign, efficient construction protocols, daylighting, indoor air quality, commissioning, post-occupancy feedback…

There is truly more to sustainability than meets the eye.

Pictured: the pier at Woods Hole

SOURCE: ” Building for the Future” No Date Given
photo courtesy of andjam79, used under this Creative Commons license

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23
Jun
08

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower

three views Price Tower

In The Atlantic, Wayne Curtis explores an Oklahoma landmark, the Price Tower. Way back in 1952, a pipeline entrepreneur named Harold Price asked for a three-story, three-quarter-million dollar building and ended up with a 19-story building that came in at over two million. Finished in 1956, it was, says Curtis,

…easily one of the more bizarre towers ever built. Wright, who is best known for his low Prairie-style buildings, had a complicated relationship with tall buildings, calling one an “incongruous mantrap of monstrous dimensions.” Yet late in life he created drawings for a 528-story skyscraper featuring atomic-powered elevators with five cabs strung vertically in each shaft. (It was never built.)

Despite his aversion to height, it was Wright who talked the businessman into the 19 floors, although it doesn’t seem to have been a difficult selling job. Price’s son later joked that the Price Tower was basically 18 floors that existed to hold up his father’s office on the penthouse level. It stands today as the tallest example of Wright’s architectural accomplishments. Apparently there had been plans for a number of New York City high-rises on Wright’s drawing board, back in the 1920s, but none were ever built.

After passing through other hands, the Price Tower eventually became the property of an arts center, which remodeled part of it into a hotel in order to support the more culturally relevant sections. More recently, the owners had a new arts center designed by world-class architect Zaha Hadid, but funding problems have kept the actual construction of it on hold.

Upon personal inspection, the author found the tower to be interesting from the outside, not quite looking like the same building when seen from different viewpoints. The interior is replete with many triangular features, and being inside it definitely gives the observer a different feel than any experienced in more conventional, rectangle-based structures. The author calls it a space “almost perfectly scaled for human occupation,” thought it did start out with a couple of problems, like leaky windows, which had to be dealt with. Curtis quotes Wright on the virtues of the triangle, then remarks, “This statement, like much of the architect’s writing, recedes further from comprehension the longer one considers it.”

This building is characterized by a lavish use of copper inside and out.
In Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, the chapter on metals discusses copper, along with its alloys bronze and brass, as having such properties as conductivity, resistance to corrosion, and malleability, so it’s available pre-formed into all kinds of shapes. The advantages are offset by a not very good strength-to-weight ratio.

The inspiration for the basic structure of the Price Tower was arboreal. Wright was neither the first nor the last architect to take the tree as an exemplar. He designed the “trunk” as the sturdy service core and cantilevered the reinforced concrete floors off it. Without the need for weight-bearing columns around the periphery, the architect was free to treat the shell as an almost purely decorative element. Like a tree’s leaves, the copper fins protect the interior from direct sunlight, and the myriad textures that result from the various external ornaments make a very eye-pleasing arrangement.

While visiting the building in order to write about it, Curtis waited out a rainstorm inside and fancied that it felt like being in a safe, snug treehouse. Unlikely as it might seem, Bartlesville, near Tulsa, is also the home of structures designed by other noted architectural firms, such as John Duncan Forsyth, Bruce Goff, Welton Becket, Edward Buehler Delk, Clifford May, and HOK. So, whether it’s regarded as radically innovative or simply bizarre, the Price Tower is in good company.

SOURCE: ” Little Skyscraper on the Prarie ” July 2008
photo courtesy of ercwttmn , used under this Creative Commons license

20
Jun
08

Urban Landscape Lights Up with LED Technology

Galleria Seoul

Rebecca Cathcart recently interviewed Sonny Astani, a Los Angeles developer of real estate who turned her on to his vision of a shining city reminiscent of the urban landscape revealed in the 1982 film Blade Runner. As she lyrically describes it:

The illuminated windows of the city’s densely packed towers sparkle like stars in the night, and their facades are covered with bright, animated billboards. A flying car glides past the enormous eye of a smiling geisha hundreds of stories above the wet urban streets.

The Philip K. Dick story from which the movie was derived was titled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Now, architects dream of electric buildings. Though the action of the film is set in 2019, Astani wants to hurry things up. He envisions just such a glowing façade on each of the two high-rise condominiums that are his current project. Located in an area some call “Times Square West,” the 30-story towers are scheduled for completion next year.

Various methods of lighting up buildings are in use around the globe. In Seoul, the Galleria West (pictured) shows off electronic façade technology developed by UN Studio and Arup Lighting. The shopping mall’s whole façade is covered with discs, more than four thousand of them, which can each display up to 16 million colors, just like a desktop monitor, combining their colors into any graphic or text combination dictated by the controlling computer. Each disc is 850 millimeters in diameter and each one plays its part in the perpetually-changing appearance.

In Hong Kong, a building’s LED-lined elevator changes color as it moves up and down. The tallest building in Israel, the Moshe Aviv Tower, is topped with shimmering display from Color Kinetics. In Minsk, the National Library of Belarus sports 4646 LED fixtures lighting up the tundra night. In Tokyo, the new corporate headquarters of Chanel employs an art director whose task is to invent new looks for the LED-encrusted façade. Likewise in Barcelona, a single computer controls the 4,500 points of light on the programmable radiant surface of starchitect Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar.

Astani’s lighting designer is Frederic Opsomer, whose company System Technologies made a splash by creating a 706 square meter video screen for rock band U2’s 1996 tour. This first and biggest moveable LED video display screen was greeted with rapturous amazement by fans. The company’s website offers a complete list of other music stars whose concerts have been enhanced by similar technology.

What Opsomer has in mind are not discs but “blades” or panels set six inches apart, each half an inch thick and 3″ wide, with a row of diodes. From a distance, the illusion of a solid lighted surface is attained. A similar method was used to clad the T-Mobile headquarters in Bonn.

UCLA graduate Astani, originally from Iran, built up a business that now encompasses two million square feet either currently in development or already built. About five years ago, when the concept of adaptive reuse really started to take hold in Los Angeles, he saw an opening for the adoption of his fantasy. City planning officials are in the process of mulling over Astani’s application, also taking into consideration the objections of residents who are disenchanted with the sometimes obtrusive glare of advertising.

Brightness is not the object here. Astani’s plan is for low-key graphics with an intensity only fractionally that of existing LED billboards. The pictures would move sedately and vary in brightness according to the time of day or night. Only 10 stories of each structure would be involved, and only on one side. The builder’s plan is to allot 80% of the time to paid advertising, but reserve 20% for the use of non-profit agencies and to display works by Southern California artists. The partly pro bono aspect of the plan has complicated matters for the Planning Department.

People who care about the appearance of downtown Los Angeles are divided in opinion. How about it – should buildings shine?

SOURCE: ” A Developer’s Unusual Plan for Bright Lights, Inspired by a Dark Film ” 05/21/08
photo courtesy of zoom zoom , used under this Creative Commons license

19
Jun
08

Venturi, Scott Brown, and the Future of Architecture

Sendai Mediatheque

At Archinect, Steven Song examines the ideas of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, as set forth in their book Architecture as Signs and Systems: for a Mannerist Time. Here it is in a nutshell, Song’s summation of what these two enormously influential writers are saying.

The book revisits the architectural duality of ‘signage’ and ‘shelter’, introduces the concept of superimposed activity patterns as a design tool for deriving physical form from social conditions, advocates a reassessment of our ideas of context in architecture, and discusses the relationship between form and functional flexibility, ultimately advocating rule-bending mannerist architecture for today’s post-industrial Information Age.

That’s a tall order. But first, what is mannerist architecture, and what rules does it want to bend? The answer is, any rules that don’t address the needs of the particular instance at hand, which are likely to be many and varied. “Function”, for a building, needs to mean a lot of different things, and some of them are mutually exclusive. Increasingly, the needs for inclusive and sustainable design are part of the whole. Sometimes it’s impossible to follow all the rules of every system involved, because of the overlapping, superimposed way they are. And the mannerist approach is to figure out which are the best rules to break, for the good of the whole.

Song discusses the two major roles of architecture, as defined by Scott Brown and Venturi: architecture as shelter, and architecture as signage. Signage doesn’t only mean advertising, but has to do with communication, decoration, information, and symbolism. Put them all together, and you have a “decorated shed,” a phrase which they coined.

Contemporary society has a lot of blurred boundaries, many of them obliterated by modern communication devices that erase the distinction between public and private space. People can act like they’re in public (for instance, go shopping) when actually occupying a very private space (a bedroom with a computer in it). Our cities are replete with people walking around talking to themselves because they are schizophrenics, and with people walking around talking to themselves, but not really, because they’re attached to some kind of electronic gadget with a human, or at least a machine, at the other end. The first group would be locked up if there were anyplace to put them – because it’s considered insane to talk, for instance, to a deity that, being all-powerful, presumably doesn’t even need gadgets. The second group is considered normal.

What does this mean? What does it mean for cities, and for architects? Since we can now do so much from so far away, why do urban centers survive? Because people like one-on-one transactions with those they must trust, and enjoy seeing interesting strangers, and welcome the possibility of chance meetings with friends. Urban centers will continue to not only survive, but grow. Real estate prices will keep going up as land becomes more scare and sought-after. As a result, architecture needs to be more flexible. Adaptive reuse needs to mean something more than changing a building from one type of structure into another. It needs to mean that a space can serve several purposes within one week, being adaptable at short notice and able to change back again. “Wiggle room” is the answer, and the authors give the industrial loft and the Italian palazzo as examples of flexible space. Others that come to mind are the church parish hall and the hotel ballroom. There follows some discussion of flexibility, derived from the ideas of Kevin Lynch.

Another example they offer is the hotel whose lobby seating area serves the welcome desk during the day, and the bar at night — it’s multi-use, but nothing needs to be physically moved. The tradeoff between flexibility, and the drudgery of moving partitions around, is one of the arguments against flexible space. Also there’s a philosophical argument: If it can be anything, then it’s nothing.

Pictured above is the Sendai Mediatheque, designed by Toyo Ito, whose reductive analysis of architecture finds only three elements: plate, tube, and skin. Another school of thought sees four elements : floor, column, wall, and window. Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi are looking for more.

SOURCE: “Shifting Paradigms Part 1 | Renovating the Decorated Shed” 05/15/08
photo courtesy of yusunkwon , used under this Creative Commons license

16
Jun
08

End of Life Cycle for Gettysburg Cyclorama

Among other accomplishments, Richard Longstreth has served as president of the Society of Architectural Historians and now directs George Washington University’s graduate program in historic preservation. In an ArchitectureWeek article, he discusses some abstract notions by referencing a real-world example, the Cyclorama at Gettysburg National Military Park It’s not clear whether this unique structure has already been demolished, but if not, it’s only a matter of time. What interests the author is the difference of opinion between people who don’t agree on the definitions of things like architecture and history. He says,

…the practice of preservation, like the crafting of history, is of necessity a selective act that is impossible to conduct in a purely neutral fashion. Rather, practice must be guided by reason, principle, knowledge, and fact. Much the same applies to cultural landscape, which is a construct no less than the idea of anti-restoration or of historical significance.

Consulting Wikipedia, we find that the term “cyclorama” seems to be used interchangeably to describe either the building itself, or the long, 360-degree painting of Pickett’s Charge that it was built to house. The building was designed by Austrian immigrant Richard Neutra who is recognized both as a history-sensitive modernist architect, and one who was extraordinarily attentive to the needs of his clients. He was on the cover of Time magazine in 1949, and designed the Cyclorama in 1959. It was finished in 1962, toward the end of his career. He died in 1970.

Here’s an interesting historical footnote: Even though he didn’t exist, Howard Roark, the hero of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, is probably the architect with the highest name-recognition factor ever. Rand owned a Neutra house. Once, when Neutra brought some people over to see it, Rand focused her attention on his contractor, Fordyce Marsh. “You are the physical embodiment of Howard Roark!” she is said to have exclaimed. Neutra felt slighted, or so the story goes.

In relation to the Cyclorama, Neutra seems to be a forgotten man. On the National Park Service’s Gettysburg website only a single page mentions his name. The Cyclorama seems to be a forgotten artifact. On Flickr, a search through many pages of Gettysburg photos reveals no trace of it.

For a while, it looked as if the Cyclorama might survive. The effort to preserve it turned into a bureaucratic nightmare of which Longstreth relates only a fraction. In 1998, the National Register of Historic Places declared it of “exceptional historic and architectural significance,” and in 2005, the World Monuments Fund put it on their 100 Most Endangered Properties list. But it wasn’t enough. Those who wanted to keep the Cyclorama were ganged up on by two bureaucracies, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which said, “There are other Neutra buildings; there is only one Gettysburg Battlefield…The Building must yield.”

Longstreth deplores the attitude of the park administrators, who feel that the building is an intrusion and a violation of sacred ground. In his view, the building is an integral part of the landscape, and actually, it’s the building that is not getting due respect. He defends the Cyclorama’s right to exist, and equates the literal-minded drive to restore the Gettysburg battlefield to its previous condition as a form of snobbery.

The things added since 1863 are equally legitimate parts of the place and the meaning it holds. And even if the battleground itself could be put back like it was, there’s still the whole surrounding environment of businesses and fast roads. In fact, local merchants were among those who opposed the relocation of the visitors’ center. And in fact the parking lots will stay, “partially restored” to their 1863 appearance, whatever that means.

Any opinions on the destruction of the Cyclorama?

SOURCE: “Preserving Cultural Landscapes” 06/04/08
photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik , used under this Creative Commons license

13
Jun
08

City of the Future: Poundbury

Poundbury, U.K.

Sometimes it’s good to step back from the daily demands of work and contemplate the larger questions, like, “What’s it all about?” Philosopher and professor Roger Scruton does this in “Cities for Living,” where he examines the thoughts and creations of anti-modernist architect Léon Krier, as manifested in the model city called Poundbury.

American cities are pretty much a mess, with the rest of the world not far behind. Nowhere has the principle of unintended consequences shown up more clearly than in wrong-headed urban renewal projects. Back in 1998, Krier published Architecture: Choice or Fate, which, though badly received in some circles, seems to have started a movement, with converts on both sides of the Atlantic. Every day there are more New Urbanists, and Scruton lays out one of their tenets:

The confluence of strangers in a single place and under a single law, there to live peacefully side by side, joined by social networks, economic cooperation, and friendly competition through sports and festivals, is among the most remarkable achievements of our species, responsible for most of the great cultural, political, and religious innovations of our civilization.

Krier believes that the rest of the world could learn a lot from the oldest and largest Continental capitals. He is a polycentrist, advocating the supremacy of 5 cities of 10,000 inhabitants each, over one city with 50,000. He is very much against the airport as we have come to know it, and he’s against the hermetically sealed building, which adversely impacts the health of everyone in it. He regrets that most planners want to create glitzy, exceptional buildings, rather than “normal, regular and inevitable” ones.

When it comes to height, he thinks five stories are enough. A good building has some kind of relationship to the buildings around it, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. It occupies, as should all buildings, a street that can be lived in by humans, where everything they need is no farther away than a ten-minute walk. A good building’s maintenance is economically feasible. Should the need arise for adaptive reuse, a building is, ideally, transformable.

Krier vigorously opposes the “curtain-wall idiom,” which he sees as the worst aspect of modernism. Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition defines a curtain wall as

…virtually any enclosure system supported by the building frame, as opposed to masonry or other bearing walls. A modern curtain wall is most typically thought of as a metal frame, usually aluminum, with large areas of glass.

In its chapter on Exterior Enclosures, AGS describes the various kinds of testing to which a proposed curtain wall must or can be subjected. These include structural capacity, air infiltration, water leakage, thermal performance, acoustic isolation, blast resistance, and forced-entry resistance. Here is Krier on the subject:

Buildings constructed in this way are both expensive to maintain and of uncertain durability; they use materials that no one fully understands, which have a coefficient of expansion so large that all joints loosen within a few years, and which involve massive environmental damage in their production and in their inevitable disposal within a few decades… Even if the curtain is shaped like a classical facade, it is a pretend facade, with only a blank expression. Usually, however, it is a sheet of glass or concrete panels, without intelligible apertures.

Kreir is, by all reports, articulate without being adversarial. A warm and positive kind of guy, he doesn’t waste time vilifying things he doesn’t like, but concentrates on making the world work for everybody. The worst he’ll say about modernism, apparently, is that it’s an error, one that is compounded by our error in thinking it’s inevitable. Although very unhappy about housing projects, business parks, and other relatively recent wrong answers, he doesn’t think it’s too late for some real, viable solutions.

The secret of his charm is that, like all the best teachers and leaders, he convinces his listeners that he is not informing them of outlandish newfangled ideas, but merely reminding them of profound truths of which they are already aware. Probably the most fervent fan of Krier’s worldview is the Prince of Wales, a.k.a. Prince Charles, who initiated the project of designing a whole new English town adjacent to, but not a suburb of, the city of Dorchester.

So: is Poundbury the city of the future?

SOURCE: ” Cities for Living ” 2008
photo courtesy of MarilynJane , used under this Creative Commons license

10
Jun
08

Awards from American Institute of Architects, San Francisco

In ArchitectureWeek, Brian Libby reports on the awards handed out by the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Of particular interest is the Urban Design category, in which Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) received a merit award for the immense project known as Beijing Finance Street.

Located in a historic district close to the city center and the Forbidden City, the plan is organized around a Central Park as well as a series of interior courtyards based on the traditional Chinese Hatong neighborhoods that were largely wiped out by past urban renewal but have regained favor as the nation re-embraces its past heritage.

Beijing Finance Street encompasses eight square blocks or 860,000 square meters of office buildings, hotels, and retail stores including a huge glass-roofed shopping mall. There are also more than 300 apartments and numerous small parks. Each of the 18 buildings has three parking levels underneath. It’s a district that never sleeps, but the hotels and housing units are located near the central park to take advantage of the quieter atmosphere there, while office buildings are on the edges.

The firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill can do pretty much anything, including the most high-tech projects that clients can dream up. In Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, we see another example of their work, this time for the Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York, with special attention to how they designed the vault for the Diagnostic & Treatment Facility Linear Accelerator (page 667.)

Not all AIA chapters do so, but the San Francisco chapter has a whole category for energy and sustainablilty. The honor awards in that category were captured by the Orinda City Hall (Siegel & Strain Architects), and by the Nueva School Hillside Learning Complex (Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects.) This latter project was also recently named one of the top ten green projects of 2008 by the AIA Committee on the Environment. Additionally, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry (SmithGroup) won the only merit award in this category.

Four Honor awards for excellence were given. One recipient was the firm Brand + Allen Architects, for 185 Post Street, a restoration project with innovative aspects that worked with the protective laws guarding the early 20th century origins of the historic building. Morphosis and SmithGroup shared credit for the San Francisco Federal Building, whose double skin and tall thin shape help it to overreach the energy code’s requirements. Also recognized for excellence were Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects, for Bridge House, and Fougeron Architecture, for Tehama Grasshopper.

Tehama Grasshopper is a remodeled warehouse located in San Francisco, which has been converted to offices and residences, and it also has received more than one award, having been honored earlier this year by the national AIA for its interior architecture.

Again, unlike some other local chapters, AIA San Francisco has established an awards category for interior architecture, which this year recognized three projects: a temple, a restaurant, and a residence.

Interestingly, there is even an “unbuilt design” category, for which the honoree was IwamotoScott Architecture for Hydro-Net: City of the future, a vision of San Francisco a hundred years from now. Building information modeling (BIM) helped The Design Partnership snag an honor award for the remodel of a University of California pathology lab in which costs and construction time were greatly reduced through use of the BIM technology.

The Panhandle Bandshell (pictured) received an urban design honor award, which just might be the coolest one of the bunch. This functional piece of sculpture is now located at Treasure Island, an artificial island that is part of San Francisco, where students and other low-income residents live. Among other reclaimed components, the bandshell was constructed from 65 automobile hoods and 3,000 plastic water bottles.

SOURCE: “San Francisco AIA Awards 2008″05/28/08
photo courtesy of MikeLove, used under this Creative Commons license