Archive for the 'Interiors' Category


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


Broad Contemporary Art Museum Still Controversial

When it comes to exegesis of a particular project, it would be hard to beat this Architecture Week article by Leigh Christy, in which the author takes a detailed look at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) complex, and particularly at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM). Christy’s piece adds value with many photos; site plan, section and elevation drawings; and links. (For the geo-curious, here’s a terrific zoom-in map.)

They’ve been trying to figure out what to do with LACMA for a long time, because of the lack of unity throughout the campus. A few years back, a plan to raze the whole thing to the ground and start over was nearly adopted. So when Renzo Piano Building Workshop and executive architect Gensler took on BCAM, it wasn’t only about a building. There was a very strong mandate to create a unifying element that would help pull the whole thing together – which is a heavy burden for a museum to bear, especially when it faces so many other tasks. Christy reports on the attempt:

Mimicking the solid masses of existing LACMA buildings, its limestone-clad walls proclaim “institution.” Rob Jernigan, Gensler’s principal-in-charge, observes that “the building is a simple, very well executed form that is beautiful and functionally driven. Purity, simplicity, ‘less is more’ – Renzo believes that.”

Renzo Piano is, of course, the Pritzker Award-winning architect with a list of completed and ongoing projects as long as your arm. The LACMA website says,

While Piano projects can vary greatly in concept and scope, what binds them together is the theme of lightness, the alliances between art and technology, attention to detail, and the relationship between architecture and the natural environment.

Christy cites the intricate detail found here as among the reasons why this project has brought Piano “one step closer to realizing the perfect gallery.” Comprising three stories, the building features two external exit staircases and an escalator that goes directly to the third story. Inside, six galleries of equal size are symmetrically arranged, and between them is a big red glass-walled elevator which Christy characterizes as a work of art in itself, and which some irreverent tourists cite as the most memorable feature of their visit.

Speaking of irreverence, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff says “the entry pavilion evokes a gas station,” while a not-so-famous observer remarks that the roofline evokes the hairdo of cartoon character Calvin (of “Calvin and Hobbes”). Actually, the angular roof spires are carefully placed baffles that regulate the amount of indirect sunlight illuminating the top-floor galleries.

In the galleries, floating walls allow the inspiration of curators, rather than the exigencies of solid matter, to dictate their arrangement.

More structures are planned at the museum complex, and Piano is reported to have remarked informally, “The question is how you tie this mess together.” Christy says:

Piano noted in his architect’s statement: “I imagine LACMA as a blend of new and old buildings, each reflecting the values of its age. To unite them, we will carve through the site with the precision of a surgeon.”….Execution of subsequent phases, along with judicious programming of event spaces, therefore becomes crucial to the project’s long-term success.

Regarding the degree of success so far, the jury is still out.

SOURCE: ” Broad Contemporary Art Museum ” 05/07/08
photo courtesy of JoeBehrPalmSprings , used under this Creative Commons license


Green Warehouses: Corporations Meet Sustainability Challenge

Kraft Foods, according to an announcement from ProLogis (which owns, manages and develops distribution facilities) has built a new distribution center in Morris, Illinois, which holds the distinction of being the largest structure in the world holding a Commercial Interiors certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

The 800,000 square-foot distribution facility was completed last year, and more recently, interior modifications led to the LEED Gold recognition. For Kraft, it’s a first, and certainly worthy of congratulation. The company’s Vice President for logistics, David Klavsons, had this to say:

This is a great accomplishment for our company and provides tremendous momentum for our future sustainability initiatives. We have a longstanding relationship with ProLogis and, by leveraging their expertise in green construction practices, the company has added an even higher value to our partnership.

For ProLogis, this Illinois facility is their third in the United States to receive LEED certification, and they have nine more warehouses currently vying for certification. A ProLogis executive re-affirmed the company’s determination to become the global leader in the construction of sustainable warehouses. Its customers include transportation, manufacturing and retail concerns, as well as third-party logistics providers. From its Denver, Colorado, headquarters, ProLogis controls about 526 million square feet of such facilities altogether, worldwide.

Every day, around 125 trucks approach the warehouse to either bring in or take away Kraft food products, chiefly baked good like chips and cookies. But what makes this warehouse special?

For starters, nearly 100 percent of the construction materials debris (more than 1000 tons) was kept out of the landfill by diverting it to recycling centers, while recycled and locally sourced materials were used as much as possible for the interior remodeling. An energy reduction of 60 percent was achieved in the area of lighting, through use of windows, fluorescent lamps, and motion detectors. Within the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, energy use was reduced by 40 percent, and only one quarter of the building’s area is air-conditioned. All the paints, adhesives, sealants and coatings used were chosen with an eye to their emission levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC), while carpeting and furniture are made from recycled materials.

Wood and wood-based construction materials came with the blessing of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This is the international organization devoted to best practices for sustainable forestry. The website of the U.S. branch lists the group’s principles, which cover compliance with local law, tenure and use rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, workers’ rights, community relations, environmental impact, management strategy, monitoring and assessment, and much more.

Kraft is not the only corporation concerned with “green” warehouses, of course. Nextgen Vending, purveyor of organic foods and beverages, recently opened a new facility in Boise, Idaho with several advanced features. Eden Foods, which also sells organic edibles, recently broke ground for a facility in Michigan that aims for LEED certification. The Lucky’s Warehouse project in Baltimore is the subject of a well-explained and profusely illustrated case study at Greenline, and many other similar projects are being developed throughout the country.

SOURCE: “Kraft Foods and ProLogis Announce Largest LEED-CI Gold Certification at Chicago-Area Distribution Center” 05/21/08
photo courtesy of tom.arthur , used under this Creative Commons license


Inclusive Design Philosophy Shaped by Experience of Practitioners

Accessible Design

The whole month of May, Older Americans Month, is not long enough to contemplate all the facets of inclusive design. “Aging in place” is only a part of the overall concept of accessibility or universality. Often the needs of different groups overlap, and one of the interesting things about the field is how many professionals within it were inspired by their own struggle with disability. Take, for instance, Philadelphia real estate agent Valarie Costanzo, recently profiled by Janet Pinkerton, who says:

Costanzo, 57, began concentrating on the accessibility niche after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago. She began helping MS Society clients in search of affordable handicapped-modified housing. Searching listings for homes with ramps, enlarged doors, and bathrooms with walk-in tubs or roll-in showers, Costanzo realized: “A lot of this stuff also applies to baby boomers with bad knees, bad backs, etc.

Concentrating on accessibility and usability, Costanzo searches out homes and apartments where people with restricted abilities, whether caused by age, injury, or a medical condition, can live in independence and comfort. The overwhelming majority of older Americans want to remain in their own homes for the duration of their lives, and they look for things like an absence of stairs, wide doorways, reachable electric outlets, and so on, through a long list of helpful features.

Pinkerton also spoke with architect Rene Hoffman, who notes that even young home-building clients are likely to have parents either visiting or living with them. One of the ideas suggested by this forward-looking designer is the elevator shaft that can be used as storage space for many years, until such time as stair-free access to the second floor is needed.

Seattle architect Karen L. Braitmayer is another of the many individuals who became intensely interested in universal design principles because of her own physical limitations. Confined to a wheelchair because of osteogenesis imperfecta, Braitmayer became a nationally prominent consultant in accessible design and one of the technical advisers whose knowledge helped shape Washington State’s building code to the barrier-free standard.

In Florida, Walter Dutcher, who sustained an injury fifty years ago that left him quadriplegic, helped design the Freedom Home, which has been called America’s first affordable fully-accessible home. A very pragmatic element of Dutcher’s philosophy is that undertaking the renovation of a standard house can cost several times as much as building it according to accessible design principles, from the outset. He is also quoted as saying, “The devil is in the details.”

SOURCE: “Preparing a Home for Golden Years” 05/08/08
photo courtesy of peterme, used under this Creative Commons license


Christman Building Goes LEED Double Platinum

Pewabic Tiles

What does it take to score LEED double platinum? This certification, signifying “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and never before has the double-platinum designation been applied to a building. An uncredited article from the Building Design and Construction website answers the question of why. It says:

The building is an example of sustainable “green” historic building practices, considered by many to be the highest form of sustainable design and construction due to its reuse of an existing structure. The many green features of the project include water use reduction, optimized energy performance, construction waste management, a focus on daylighting and a healthy indoor environment.

The LEED rating system, of course, measures the greenness or energy-efficiency of a building, and platinum is as good as it gets, except of course for double-platinum, which the Christman Building earned in two different categories: Core and Shell; and Commercial Interiors, which means it’s a Class A office building. In other words, both the building itself, and its office space, are awardees. Some feel that new ground is being broken in the area of best practices, that this one will be iconic in a newly-evolving sense of the word; a lasting inspiration. If buildings had slogans, this one’s could be, “Best is not good enough.”

Built in 1928, the former Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Co., or Mutual Building, is at 208 N. Capitol Avenue in Lansing, Michigan. In addition to being the Christman Company’s national HQ, the building houses long-term tenants Kelley Cawthorne and the Michigan Municipal League. It is venerable enough to be listed by the National Register of Historic Places, a condition which brings its own set of challenges to the builder. The exterior limestone detailing is mentioned as an example of the successful preservation efforts. A sixth floor was added to provide conference rooms and a glass-walled foyer.

The integrity of the structure was maintained not only in basic but in purely aesthetic ways, such as the preservation of the original tile stairways. The photo above shows examples of this finely-crafted stoneware, from the nearly century-old Pewabic pottery.

The renovation cost $12 million and will save $40,000 a year in energy costs. The design plan was not finalized from the start, but was adjusted as the project proceeded, in order to gain the most LEED points. Another source, Jeremy W. Steele reports,

Planning the structure with the top LEED rating in mind started with initial design work, said Gavin Gardi, sustainable programs manager for Christman.

The Christman Company’s website credits its design partner, SmithGroup, with the following achievements: architectural design, historic preservation design, LEED certification services, lighting and interior design, and of course all of the engineering, whether mechanical, electrical, or structural.

A May 20 ceremony formally sealed the occasion.

SOURCE: ” Michigan building awarded LEED double-platinum ” 05/20/08
photo courtesy of haycarrieanne , used under this Creative Commons license