Archive for the 'Shell' Category

03
Jul
08

The Green Wave of the Future is on Top

Greg Callaghan is as enthusiastic as all-get-out about green skins, and it’s easy to see why. “Living” buildings accomplish the feat of being greener than green. The many benefits include better air in the immediate area, plus an overall reduction of harmful gases released into the atmosphere in general; insulation against cold, heat and noise; and a way to utilize water which would otherwise pour down the drain or possibly even cause flooding. Callaghan says,

Green is the right word to describe the flora-embracing features now being incorporated into new and old buildings across the US, Europe and parts of Asia. We’re talking garden rooftops, multi-levelled terraced gardens, lush foliage draping exterior walls and vast, internal, Babylonian hanging gardens.

Of course every instance is different, depending on location, budget, whether the building is new or already existing, whether the installation is hydroponics-based or soil-based, and many other factors. But in general, the green roof consists of a multi-level sandwich, starting with the structural support. Then come the vapor control layer, thermal insulation layer, support panel, waterproof layer, drainage layer, filter membrane growing medium, and the glorious crown of vegetation. And that’s not even getting into the subject of green walls. When the surface treatment is right, masonry is provided extra protection by the plants it hosts.

The green roof concept started out cautiously, with small, short-rooted plants and grasses. Currently, over a hundred species of plants have been found viable for the purpose, and improvements in filtering, coating and barrier technology have made possible the use of shrubs and even trees. When dirt is the growing medium, many favor deciduous plants, because the yearly shedding of their leaves exposes the dark soil which can then absorb the sun’s heat for the building’s use. A properly designed green roof, garnished with some solar cells, can take care of itself by collecting and pumping its own water supply.

In the average city, at least forty percent of the energy consumed goes into the maintenance of its buildings — and a lot of that is spent either heating or cooling the interior so human habitation is possible. Green skins save energy for both those purposes — one report says air conditioning costs can drop 25% and overall electricity demand by 50%, and that’s just considering the inside. Outside, studies indicate that a sufficient number of green roofs can cool down the whole urban area by two or three degrees. When there’s a sweltering heat wave, even a seemingly small increment counts, and it’s been estimated that in Manhattan, for instance, greening just one-fifth of the roofs could accomplish that difference. In fact, if we slide on over to GreenRoofs.org, there’s a page of potential benefits that might astonish even the most ardent environmentalist.

The hard-headed, no-nonsense city of Chicago, which used to be known chiefly as the hog butchery capital, now wears the uncontested laurel wreath for its amazing number of buildings with vegetated roofs. In the last year alone, Chicago planted over 500,000 square feet of greenery over its residents’ heads. The City Hall set the pace, and there’s a lovely page about it here.

Australia was leery of innovation, but in the five years since Michael and Robyn Thomas produced their comprehensive and still very relevant paper for the government’s Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage, an ongoing drought has made believers out of quite a few skeptics. One of the showpieces planned for the green-skin revolution in Oz is the two billion dollar renewal of an entire precinct of Sydney, including two towers designed by Jean Nouvel and Norman Foster.

Callaghan’s article emphazises the ARCOS building in Japan’s Fukuoka City (pictured) which takes the green roof idea a step forward with not one many green roofs, 15 stories of them, like the icing on a tiered wedding cake. More great photos of this startlingly radical office building are here.

The only thing better than a green roof is an accessible green roof. When it’s created not just for energy-efficiency, but for people, it can provide the desired refreshment and even the company of birds and little animals. Sometimes you don’t need to consume the fuel and the time for a day-trip to the country. Half an hour under a tree can renew the spirit wonderfully. Remember the old Carole King/Gerry Goffin song, “Up on the Roof”?

On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below can’t bother me.

SOURCE: “Green skins ” 06/21/08
photo courtesy of tanaka_juuyoh, 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

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

11
Jun
08

Bird’s Nest, Water Cube, and More in Beijing

Olympic Stadium, Beijing

In only two short months, the Beijing Olympics will take place, and a very interesting article by Paul Goldberger in The New Yorker gives us a tour of some of the major structures created for the event. He begins by reflecting on the architectural layout of the whole city in relation to the 2,800-acre Olympic Green. Back in 2002, 96 architects competed for the honor of mapping out the master plan. Sasaki Associates of Boston became the decider, and Goldberger explains the significance of the placement of the National Stadium and the National Aquatic Center. Here’s how the author describes the National Stadium (pictured):

The concrete wall of the arena is wrapped with a latticework exterior of crisscrossing columns and beams, a tangle of twisting steel twigs. The lattice arcs upward and inward over the stadium’s seats, supporting a translucent roof and forming an oculus around the track. The building may look like a huge steel sculpture, but most of the beams are structural, not decorative…. The outer wall of the concrete structure is painted bright red…and when lit up at night it shines through the latticework, an enormous red egg glowing inside its nest.

It’s not difficult to see why the enormous building is informally called the Bird’s Nest. It was designed by two Swiss architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, and built by a crew that totaled as many as 9,000 workers at a time. For the Olympics, the stadium will seat 91,000 guests. Afterward, many tiers of seats will be removed and the capacity brought down to 80,000 for the remainder of the building’s life as China’s national stadium.

Just as startlingly original, in a different way, is the appearance of the National Aquatics Center, or Water Cube, designed by PTW Architects, an Australian firm. The bubbly exterior is a cladding formed from cells of a plastic called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene. Goldberger explains the wonders of ETFE, as the substance is familiarly known. It transmits light better than glass and only weighs 1/100th as much as glass, plus it has better insulating properties than glass. This remarkable exterior treatment was developed with the help of Arup, an engineering firm. For the Olympics, the Water Cube will seat 17,000, but when the games are over, nearly 2/3rds of the upper tiers will be removed and multipurpose rooms will take their place.

Goldberger lyrically describes the surreal experience of being inside the Water Cube, and speculates on the motives behind the Chinese bringing in international architects for the most prominent structures. There are 31 structures in all, and most of the ones designed by native architects are not particularly noteworthy, except for Digital Beijing, the control center, whose four slicey sections remind some observers of the internal parts of a computer. Its designer, Pei Zhu, received his education at the University of California.

Goldberger also takes a retrospective look at previous Olympic venues in cities around the world, explaining why they were the way they were. In recent decades there has been a strong tendency for the host cities to use the Olympics as a catalyst for extensive urban renewal, going far beyond the requirements of the games themselves. Barcelona redeveloped its entire waterfront. London is gearing up in a big way for 2012, with a $19 billion plan for the East End, which has traditionally been the low-rent part of town.

Many people are not sure what to make of Beijing’s Olympic preparations. The subway system has been upgraded and extended, and there’s plenty of cosmetic touching-up, with trees planted and roadways tidied, but there is a feeling in some quarters that it’s largely an optical illusion, composed of more façade than substance – as Goldberger puts it, “driven by image, not by sensitive urban planning.” His question, and one worth asking, is, “Beijing’s Olympic architecture is spectacular, but what message does it send?”

SOURCE: ” Out of the Blocks ” 06/02/08
photo courtesy of borkur.net , used under this Creative Commons license

03
Jun
08

A High-Performance Building in Texas

UT Nursing

The School of Nursing and Student Community Center at the University of Texas in Houston (pictured) was chosen as an AGS case study for several reasons, according to a very explicit piece by Rives Taylor in Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition. Ambitious high-performance goals were set and met. It began with a holistic approach to design and planning:

These building strategies were developed through a highly defined and premeditated process in a one-year period before design started. A collective team of experts undertook this year of intensive research, seeking the best existing research methods, design, and operational practices to direct the realization of this facility.

One of the greenest things about the School of Nursing is what happened even before the first step toward its creation. The site had previously been occupied by a research building, which was deconstructed so conscientiously that 80% of its materials were reclaimed for recycling and eventual further use.

Building Information Modeling techniques were used to formulate an initial plan, which was then, with the aid of the software, changed and adjusted along the way. BIM helped with the validation of recycled content, the balancing of CO2, and assessment of the buildings life cycle, and in other areas as well. For instance, in the matter of lighting:

The team refined their intuitive ideas using energy and daylight modeling tools with the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs… Actual lighting levels for the alternative design schemes were simulated through a yearly cycle. The measurements were then compared and decisions were made to follow specific strategies based on light quality, quantity, energy performance, costs, and other criteria.

Maximum lighting effectiveness was achieved through a combination of several different solutions including windows, four skylighted atria, sun shading devices, and artificial lighting. Daylighting is characterized here as one of the most simple and powerful strategies, because it doesn’t require a trained operations staff in order to work effectively.

Some recycled materials were used, for instance the multi-layered insulation. All materials were closely scrutinized with an eye to their low volatile organic compound (VOC) content. Once set in place, these of course also continue to perform without further human intervention. For greater energy efficiency, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) equipment was installed with a combination of some undersized elements (pumps and fans) and some over-sized ones (ducts and pipes). Ventilation is treated separately from cooling, and a localized instantaneous hot water delivery system is the solution preferred over the traditional central hot water source. The double-paned window glass is spectrally selective.

Five tanks collect rainwater which, combined with condensation from the cooling system, provide greywater for the low-flow toilets and other uses, while potable water is to be found only in drinking fountains, sinks and showers.

The first two floors contain facilities used by the whole student body: bookstore, auditorium, café, and student services offices. The third and fourth floors are dedicated to the academic needs of the nursing school: classrooms and other learning environments. Then there is a research lab floor, topped by three stories containing offices for faculty and administration, and conference rooms. The service building is a separate structure.

The School of Nursing’s four elevations and its roof were conceived as five unique facades, each a distinct entity, and the detail with which Taylor describes the individual design approaches to the conditions and requirements on the various sides, is the highlight of this chapter.

SOURCE: “University of Texas School of Nursing and Student Community Center” AGS page 495 2007
photo courtesy of JoeBehrPalmSprings , used under this Creative Commons license

02
Jun
08

Tour Signal to Enhance Paris Skyline

Torre Agbar Barcelona

At Scotsman.com, Susan Bell takes a look at the outcome of the competition for the design of a very tall building in Paris, which has made a massive amount of news. (A splendid collection of pictures resides at the Architecture Lab website.) Bell mentions how inimical the Parisians find the whole notion of skyscrapers in general, having gone so far as to ban them after the Tour Montparnesse was built in the Seventies, and gives us a slice of French humor:

Ironically, for a building which is so disliked, the Tour Montparnasse is now home to the French association of architects. Parisians joke that the best view of their city is to be had from its upper levels, principally because the building itself is no longer visible.

Who would have guessed that one new building in one city would create so much interest worldwide? Part of the reason is that the planned Tour Signal (or Signal Tower) will be only slightly shorter than the super-iconic Eiffel Tower. Mostly, this proposed landmark is newsworthy because the architect is Jean Nouvel, recent winner of the very prestigious and coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize.

His design for the Paris business district triumphed over four other world-class contenders. His firm, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, maintains offices in Spain, Italy, Denmark, Britain and the U.S., and has over 200 completed projects to its credit, with more than 40 ongoing projects spread throughout the globe, in 13 different countries. One of Nouvel’s completed projects, Torre Agbar in Barcelona, is pictured above.

The Tour Signal will grace the La Defense district of Paris, and comprise 71 stories, including offices, a hotel, apartments, and retail space for restaurants and shops. The plan includes four levels, each built around an atrium. Surrounded by parkland, it will be one of the showpieces of French President Sarkozy’s master plan for the renovation of the district. The exterior will present colorful displays, about which there doesn’t seem to currently be much information available. It is also said to be sustainability-conscious, but not much is presently known about that aspect, either.

Paris is not the only city with a Nouvel high-rise in the works. In New York, plans are afoot for a 75-story condominium tower next to the Museum of Modern Art. Like every other such suggested building, this one is controversial. Some people hate the eccentrically-formed structure with its diagonal strips reminiscent of a timbered English cottage, but it has passed through the approval process of New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, so the prospects are good.

New York is also home to another Nouvel building described as “spectacular,” at West 19th Street and West Side Highway. Minneapolis seems to be crazy about its Guthrie Theater complex, now two years old. Like many of Nouvel’s designs, this one employs color and light in ways not often seen in architectural exteriors.

In Switzerland, the Lucerne Cultural and Conference Center features an extending roof that reflects the dance of light on the lake’s surface, lending an ethereal, not-quite-solid appearance to the flat extension.

Paris is also home to the stunningly original Institut du Monde Arabe, a Nouvel creation finished in the late 1980s. Other projects are currently underway in Morocco and many other locales. But it doesn’t stop there – Nouvel is the creator of a distinctive bottle for a Yves Saint Laurent men’s cologne.

SOURCE: ” Ambitious design to rival Eiffel for Parisian skyline ” 05/28/08
photo courtesy of PixelManiatiK , used under this Creative Commons license