Archive for October, 2010

October 24, 2010

Joggers along Chicago’s lakefront

Chicago tales flow from Brooks

(José M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune)

October 24, 2010

Architecture’s Terror and Wonder: A Conversation with Blair Kamin

Architecture Critic

Posted: October 21, 2010 12:50 AM

Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, thoughtfully and provocatively defines the emotional and cultural dimensions of architecture. He is one of the nation’s leading voices for design that uplifts and enhances life as well as the environment. His new book, Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, assembles some of his best writing from the past ten years.

We recently engaged in an email discussion about architecture as a social art, the importance of enlightened leadership, and about the critic as a tie-wearing “street fighter.”

GH: Whenever sites like ground zero come up, or New Orleans, architecture takes center stage for a brief moment. Park51, the so-called “ground zero mosque,” is also a good example of catalyzing architectural concern through controversy or trauma. When this happens the symbolic or political aspects of architecture get emphasized over everything else. This contributes to the notion that architecture is removed from day-to-day issues, that it is special, exotic, not next door. Do you think such architectural controversies help create more awareness of architecture and its day-to-day importance or do they ultimately make the public wary of “architecture” and architects?

BK: The controversies have simultaneously raised architecture’s profile and revealed its political limits. Far from being marginal, architecture and urbanism remain at the heart of the ongoing battles over rebuilding the World Trade Center site and New Orleans. What kind of city will emerge from the ruins left by the terrorists and Katrina? And how will that reflect on architects? If, for example, the new buildings and urban spaces at ground zero don’t achieve Daniel Libeskind’s aim of commemorating the dead and building a living city, then the public will have every right to feel cheated. But architects won’t be the only ones to blame. The real architects of the World Trade Center’s 16 acres have been politicians, real estate developers, transportation bureaucrats, even the police. It’s only when architects and city planners join forces with powerful political and business leaders, as Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett did with their influential 1909 “Plan of Chicago,” that they can truly reshape our world.

GH: There is a lot of architectural “noise” within the profession–the proliferation of imagery, theory, websites, books, conferences–but is there enough noise in the public realm? Is there enough cross-over from the profession and academic discipline into the social arena and should there be? Frank Gehry recently mentioned that something like 98% of buildings are not done by architects. Are the architects not reaching out in the right ways? Or does it take a visionary leader like Mayor Daley to help maintain an architectural consciousness in the public realm–so the public will want to reach for the architects? Do you think we need something like an “Architect Laureate” to promote architecture at the national level?

BK: We don’t need an Architect Laureate. What we really need is a better intellectual infrastructure, one that continually thrusts architecture and its impact on the public realm into the public conversation. By that, I mean more writing about architecture in the popular press and the blogosphere, more radio and television programs, more lectures, and more tours. You visit Chicago and what do you do? You take a boat tour down the Chicago River, glide by the Wrigley Building and other great skyscrapers, and are instantly indoctrinated in the notion that architecture and urban planning can make an enormous difference in a city’s quality of life. It’s true, of course, that Daley’s leadership has been essential in promoting design’s importance. But don’t ignore bottom-up initiatives in favor of those that come from the top down. We need both if we are going to demand–and get–better design.

GH: One of the themes I noticed running through your new book is a concern not just for Chicago but for cities in general, their citizens and how architecture impacts them. Is it fair to say this is the role of the critic, to be the consciousness, the defender of the city and its people–protecting them from bad architecture? Do you think the role of the critic has changed in the last few decades?
BK: If you’re not fighting for better architecture, then why bother writing at all? I learned that lesson from that great street fighter in a bow tie, Allan Temko, the San Francisco Chronicle’sPulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic. Back in the 1960s, Temko would pen a critique lambasting an awful bridge design for the San Francisco Bay area. Then he would write an anonymous editorial, praising his own critique with words to this effect: “Temko was brilliant. We need a better bridge!” Now that’s crusading journalism! Obviously, you can’t play by those rules today. Yet the need to defend the city against design mediocrity and to insist on high standards hasn’t changed. Now you just do it on the Web as well as in print. Still, you have to be realistic: A critic can set the public agenda, but he or she cannot enact that agenda. Nor should critics have that much power. Ultimately, you are arguing for a set of values and standards that enable readers to judge for themselves whether the city is changing for the better or the worse.

GH: Post-9/11 there was talk about the end of the skyscraper. The rest of the world seems to be embracing them. Is there still a place for them in American cities? I recently read your piece on the death of Calatrava’s Spire. What are they going to do with that hole? There are also fantastic proposals for vertical farms and other “green” skyscrapers. Do you think these are feasible or is this just another example of architecture dreaming in ways far removed from social and economic reality?

BK: Of course there’s still a place for skyscrapers in American cities. We simply have too many of them. Here’s a mind-blowing statistic: In the 10 years ending in 2008, Chicago developers started or completed nearly 200 high-rises. That’s more than twice as many high-rises as in all of Milwaukee. For decades, the skyscraper was synonymous with the tall office building, but this building boom was largely about residential towers, the Chicago Spire being the supreme American example. What’s going to happen to that hole? I’ve gotten some wonderful suggestions from readers: 1) Throw all of Illinois’ corrupt pols in there and fill it with cement; 2) Turn it into the world’s largest compost heap; or 3) Make it the future home of the Obama presidential library since it’s shaped like the letter “O.” In all likelihood, it will just sit there for a few years, until a new developer figures out how to use the Spire’s foundations for a new (and much smaller) tower. As for green skyscrapers, they are entirely feasible. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago and two of its former architects, Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, have designed a soon-to-open Chinese skyscraper with a series of integrated sustainable features, such as slots for wind turbines that will generate the tower’s power. Buildings like this aren’t fantasies. They’re the future. It’s a rather delicious irony, by the way, that this green skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower, will be the headquarters of a Chinese tobacco company.

GH: Your book is titled, Terror and Wonder. Is there too much terror and reaction to terror and not enough wonder in architecture? As you noted in your book, there has been an increase in security planning and this is having an impact on cities and public spaces.

BK: The self-inflicted damage from our over-reaction to the terrorist threat has been particularly lamentable. We’ve seen clumsy or overwrought security measures make life miserable at our airports and drain vitality from our public spaces, like the lifeless stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. Washington is the worst example of this trend. Ugly and often-unnecessary security barriers of all sorts have multiplied wildly there, like the brooms in that famous scene from “Fantasia.” At the same time, we’ve seen a profusion of iconic cultural buildings and public spaces as cities sought to duplicate the “Bilbao effect” of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Chicago’s Millennium Park, with its wildly popular interactive sculptures, is a good example. So it’s been a time of extreme oscillation between repressive security measures and teeming public spaces. One might say that the recession has given us a much-needed chance to cool off and ponder what we’ve done, but the enormous number of unemployed architects–reportedly 40 percent–is no blessing. It’s truncating careers, creating a lost generation of architects.

GH: I thought you ended the book wonderfully by contrasting the violence of 9/11 with the long-term neglect of America’s infrastructure and public buildings. Two sets of ruins brought about by different means. What is your current view of recent Obama administration movement in terms of infrastructure–and those solar panels on the White House? And should we kill off iconic buildings or do we still need them? Do we need icons of a different sort?

BK: I admire that Obama is addressing the nation’s enormous infrastructure backlog, but I’m not impressed with the results, at least not so far. Too much of what’s been done through the stimulus package has been remedial rather than transformative. We’re repaving roads rather than building anything that possesses the aesthetic grandeur or community-shaping power of the New Deal’s great public works. High-speed rail could meet this standard, but it’s a long way off. As for iconic buildings, we’ll always need them. But what we really ought to be worrying about is the architectural quality of our “background buildings,” the everyday structures that do far more than iconic “foreground” buildings to shape our metropolitan areas. Perhaps, too, we need a new type of icon, one that gives us sustainability as well as architectural spectacle. In the end, I think, what we require is a new mind set, one which grasps afresh that architecture isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s a social art, the art with which we live.

October 24, 2010

Blair Kamin, on Criticism

blair kamin book terror wonder

Blair Kamin is a Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic from a town blessed with some of the best buildings in the world. He writes for The Chicago Tribune, passing unflinching near-daily judgments on the great designs of our time. He’s got a new book out called Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, composed of 51 columns he’s written since 9/11. We talked to him recently about what it means to be a critic today.

What makes a good critic?

Someone who loves the art, and can come with passion and wit to it. Ada Louise Huxtable is fearless, and not just funny but witty. She’s able to crystallize, with distillations like the “Lollipop Building.” They’re distillations that delight, that create pleasure. It’s the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.There’s fearlessness too – an ability to shape and influence the debate, and not waiting until it’s too late. It’s a matter of sticking your neck out and doing it early before decisions are reached that are very important.

Who are you writing to with your column?

I don’t write down, but try to raise standards up. To communicate intelligently is essential – to bring intelligence to the lay person, and to command the respect of the profession. It’s often achieved with the simile or the metaphor. You’ve got to get people to taste the difference between the bad and the good. I think the genius of Frank Gehry is his ability to communicate with a down-home, streetwise panache of Columbo, like a rumpled Peter Falk – you know, “the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park is like a bouquet of flowers…”

Why choose to critique mostly the monumental buildings, rather than the smaller ones?

I do smaller scale stuff, like a green supermarket, but I typically don’t do single-family residential. In general, the bigger projects have a way of grabbing people’s attention. The question that comes up is: Why would anyone care? And if you can’t make people care, you’re wasting your time. The real key is not the size, but the idea behind the building. On the other hand, I teach at North Central College, and I take students to the Farnsworth House for a quiet, spiritual moment together. There’s a lot more power in that than in a big building.

Why would anyone care about architecture?

Because they realize on a gut level that it makes a difference in everyday life, like the food they eat, the air they breathe or the books they read. They get viscerally how architects, designers and developers give pleasure, or banality, or worse.My job is to try to articulate the reasons they react in the way they do. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to grab them by the scruff of the neck to get them to pay attention and make them care. I’m not an anthropologist. I’m interested in how architecture hits you in the gut, not just the brain. Different people experience architecture in different ways. I want to interpret how they might experience a building – how it might impact them emotionally and physically. I feel very much on solid ground when describing emotions and feelings, a sense of well-being and experience with a place.

What about the dizzying array of online tools that allow anyone to be a critic, even with comments to posts?

Comments are double-edged. The fact is that even critics have blind spots, and there might be a person who found something you missed. Ideally, this is a conversation where the reader can talk back. But on the other hand, there are those bringing in invective, and worse, anonymous invective, or trashing competitors.

I’m in the thick of it, and my job is to deal with it in the most intelligent, compelling and articulate way I can. You know, I get criticized – “ He moved to the suburbs, what does he know about the city?” But I lived in the city for 15 years, and I still work in it every day.

Following your September 2009 piece for Dwell, Brick by Brick, there were a number of comments, some of them negative, about neighbors and by neighbors regarding the house you covered.  What’s your take on personal attacks publicly posted as comments?

I don’t allow personal attacks posted as comments, but I do think that criticism of design, even harsh criticism, is fair game. In the story, I alluded to the fact that the Brick Weave House was not a house for everybody. I was aware that it was an idiosyncratic house; it certainly doesn’t face the street in a conventional way. Some people object to that and their voices should be heard.

So would you filter out the negative comments, or not?

On my blog, I filter out the inappropriate negative comments, those that are personal in nature. The invective doesn’t serve to advance the conversation. The Internet is a Wild West, with no rules. Ideally, you moderate the comments. The key is that there are no personal attacks, but ideas or buildings or different. It’s a new marketplace, but there are rules. It needs to be a civilized place – we need to keep it as civilized as possible.





October 24, 2010

National Museum of Underwater Archaeology / Estudio Vasquez Consuegra

National Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © David Frutos

Architects: Estudio Vasquez Consuegra
Project Architect: Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra
Technical Architects: Marcos Vázquez Consuegra and Mariano García
Collaborators: Pedro Díaz, Harald Schönegger, Pedro Caro, Fernando Burgos, Joaquín Amaya (Documentation) Miguel Chaves, Francisco Calvo, Eduardo Melero and Jeff Geisinger
Structure: NB-35, S.L./J. Jiménez Cañas, Ingeniero C.C. y P.
Services: Insur-JG, S.L.
Models: Talleres Vázquez, Juan de Dios Hernández and Jesús Rey
Project Area: 6,012 sqm
Budget: 11,458,000 €
Project Year: 2001-2008
Photographs: Duccio MalagambaDavid Frutos

The building emerges to the surface as two elements: The National Centre and the large lantern skylight of the excavated volume of the Museum. Between the two, a wide ramp descends, bringing the visitor into the interior of the museum. The experience of entering is perceived as a metaphor of submersion into the ocean. The long, opaque, prismatic volume of the National Centre is located adjacent to the road which runs in front of the city walls and is aligned parallel to the edge of the quay. The other volume; broken, angular and more transparent, adopts a geometry that permits it to accommodate between the two volumes a type of plaza over the quay, the entrance to the building, a waiting room for the Museum, an open air public exhibition space from which it is possible to perceive through the lantern of the museum, some of the objects on display inside.The name of the Museum, written in enormous letters, runs the length of a canvas of coloured that constitutes the interior facade of the Centre, evoking, in their design, the condition of a volume emerging, of the submerged Museum.

National Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © David FrutosNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © David FrutosNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio MalagambaNational Museum of Underwater Archaeology - Estudio Vasquez Consuegra © Duccio Malagambasite plan site planbasement floor plan basement floor planlower floor plan lower floor planelevation + section 01 elevation + section 01section 01 section 01section 02 section 02perspective 01 perspective 01perspective 02 perspective 02sketch sketch

October 22, 2010

Yale University Art Gallery / Louis Kahn

Exterior at night ©Pfeiffer Partners and Levin & Associates ArchitectsYale University Art Gallery © Flickr-user: illa flaubertStreet Entrance ©Flicker-user:caprilemonInside view of Entrance ©Flickr-user:caprilemonInterior gallery space ©Flickr-user:caprilemonStairwell Core ©Flickr-user:RagesossExterior with landscape ©Elizabeth Felicella006154 third floor plan006184 west elevation

Known for his fusion of the International Style and personal poetic influences in his architecture, is notably one of the most respected architects of the 20th century. He often worked alongside engineers and contractors, which enabled his innovative designs to be structurally sound while continually advancing towards a new refinement.

One of his more famous structures and the first significant commission of , the Yale University Art Gallery in  was designed when he was a visiting critic at the Yale School of Architecture as the first of three art museums to be designed and built. The project was built between 1951 and 1953.

With this Kahn was able to explore the ideas he had about transforming modern architecture which to him lacked the monumental and spiritual quality of ancient buildings. He was successful in his hopes of redefining architecture, as this building marks a significant turning point in the history of American museum architecture.

According to author Patricia Cummings Loud, “The commission brought about Kahn’s discovery of structure, materials, and perhaps most important, the power of the forms he was capable of creating. The Yale Art Center served to catalyze many of his basic ideas and beliefs about architecture, both in words and in work.”

This art gallery is considered by historians to be a response to Kahn’s desire for a new monumentality in the post-World War II period. His masterful sense of space and light worked to create structures that emotionally impacted those who encountered them, as he combined visually compelling spaces that varied under the transforming light during different times of the day.While walking along the bordering street of the campus, the building’s blank walls stand out against the neo-Gothic background of the university. As is apparent in this structure, Kahn typically tended toward heavily textured brick and bare concrete, which he wonderfully juxtaposes against more refined and pristine surfaces, like the large glass windows of this building beautifully lined by steel.The front door is found in a recessed corner that is defined by an absent rectangle following the pattern of the glass fenestration. The door leads to a series of open loft spaces on the first floor, which flow horizontally until the space is broken by core circulation elements, including the main stair, elevator and mechanical core. The highly flexible space not only stores a portion of the University’s art collection but also functions as a studio for architecture students.The more prominent features of this building include the hollow concrete tetrahedral space-frame that allows for the omission of ductwork while also reducing the standard requirements regarding floor-to-floor height. His interest in pushing the boundaries with technology led him to design this waffle-slab that served as the floor of one room and just as functionally became the ceiling of another. The stairway in the center reflects the triangular patterns and lines of the exterior and also acts as an sculpture in the center of the gallery space.

Recently the art gallery underwent a three-year, $44 million renovation which hoped to restore the landmark to its original purity and integrity after years of repair and alterations. The hopes were to also update the building systems so that they may be of the most functional and optimal design.

The most laudable aspect of the renovation was the replacement of the signature window-walls of the building with a new system that addressed the original wall’s technical shortcomings.The open-space layout of the galleries and the exterior courtyard were reinstated in the renovation, as well as the transformation of the first-floor lobby into a media lounge. The President of Yale University, Richard C. Levin says that the renovation “preserves and restores the architect’s brilliant vision, and it also accommodates the Gallery’s expanding scope and needs for many years to come.”

Said by New York architect Jeffry Kieffer, “Kahn’s accomplishment was not the formal variation of elements as ends in themselves, but his constant ability to extract from this void means to express his belief in the institutions he was working for.”

Project Year: 1951-1953
Photographs: Flickr: caprilemonilla flaubert; Elizabeth

October 18, 2010

USAI NanoLumen

USAI has introduced NanoLumen, a recessed lighting fixture that marries optics and performance with a small aperture. Designed around a T4 ceramic metal halide lamp, the 2-1/2" aperture sits flush with ceiling planes to allow for precise, flexible point-source lighting. The light achieves 60% efficiency. The assembly rotates for easy relamping without separating components. ¥

USAI has introduced NanoLumen, a recessed lighting fixture that marries optics and performance with a small aperture. Designed around a T4 ceramic metal halide lamp, the 2-1/2″ aperture sits flush with ceiling planes to allow for precise, flexible point-source lighting. The light achieves 60% efficiency. The assembly rotates for easy relamping without separating components.

By:Laurie Grant
October 18, 2010

ThyssenKrupp Quarter: Essen, Germany/JSWD Architekten and Chaix & Morel et Associés

ThyssenKrupp QuarterThe headquarters building houses offices for more than 500 employees. A sunshading system controls glare and heat gain in the office spaces; the exposed glazing encloses a multistory atrium.The entire nine-building campus was designed by the same team, allowing the glass and steel vernacular to be carried through from the headquarters tower to the other buildings. The complex is programmed to encourage movement back and forth between structures (and thus interaction among employees).ImageIn bright sun, the fins of the sunshading system fold flat against the building to block as much heat as possible. On the shaded side of the building, the fins open to allow in the maximum amount of daylight.The motorized system is mounted vertically, allowing entire columns of fins to move in tandem.ImageImageImageImageTo regulate temperature in the non-climate-controlled atrium, the design team employed skylights that release pent-up hot air and promote passive ventilation. Plants are set out on the bridges that traverse the space, and a garden is installed at the base so that workers who have offices looking into the atrium have a view that includes greenery.The atrium is designed to host different functions, including presentations and other events. Small seating areas were designed into the bridges to serve as breakout areas and informal social hubs for the workers in the building.The client brief mandated that a sunshading system be employed on the campus buildings, but that the view for employees not be obstructed. Even when closed, the small louvers that make up each fin allow for views while maximizing shading of the actual glazed façade.The perimeter offices receive abundant natural light. They feature glass walls with frit patterns so that the light can penetrate deeper into the interior without compromising privacy.The majority of the interior finishes and furniture on the office floors is white, in order to reflect the daylight and maximize its throw into the floorplate.

Outside of Essen, Germany, sits the Krupp Belt, a 568-acre redevelopment that has, until recently, been very nearly empty. Much of the site was littered with rundown and largely abandoned factories until Krupp Park, a 57-acre public greenspace opened last year. Now, new construction is revitalizing the site’s built landscape as well: The ThyssenKrupp Quarter is a multibuilding campus that houses manufacturing conglomerate ThyssenKrupp AG’s main offices. Designed by the team of JSWD Architekten in Cologne, Germany, and Chaix & Morel et Associés in Paris—who together beat out more than 100 submissions in an international competition—the campus had to answer the need for not only a cornerstone for the larger development, but a signature identity for the company.

But before construction could begin, the site’s industrial past had to be reckoned with: Nearly two hundred years of steel production meant that extensive soil remediation had to be completed. This required the sifting and cleaning of 15.9 million cubic feet of earth, and during the process, the cleaned soil was moved to create small hills and a parkscape around the site.

For the design, the team shied away from a traditional corporate tower. “We decided not to do a high-rise building like you would find in New York,” JSWD co-founder Jürgen Steffens says. “The gesture was too big for ThyssenKrupp, so we decided instead to make a small high-rise.” Rising 165 feet, and standing at the head of a long reflecting pool that leads some 980 feet to an access road, the headquarters building (otherwise known as Q1) is the clear center of operations on campus; the eight surrounding buildings have a maximum height of 82 feet to give the complex “a more human scale,” Steffens says. Every building is situated around an atrium or courtyard to “signal that the people work together and have a dialogue,” he adds. And the organization of the program also helps this cross-pollination. More than 500 people work in the headquarters building, and meeting rooms and the employee canteen are located in other buildings on site.

One thing employees do not need to go outside for is fresh air. All of the buildings on the campus follow stringent German sustainability standards and, as such, are naturally ventilated. This is particularly notable in the headquarters building, where offices surround a vast 10-story atrium that is not air-conditioned. “The idea was not to heat or cool the whole atrium, which is a huge volume of air,” Steffens says. “It would cost a lot of money, and not be sustainable.” Exceptions are made for employee comfort in targeted zones, which the team refers to as “microclimatic interventions.” In these spaces, radiant heating is employed and reflected off of canopies to create a zone of warmer air.

A complex sunshading system makes the lack of air conditioning possible in the glazed structures. Stainless steel louvers and fins open and close based on the sun’s path to maximize views out, while reducing glare and cutting down on heat gain. But the sunshading system—with its triangular, square, and trapezoidal fins—also serves to give the campus buildings their signature appearance.

“The detail of the sunshading system is the character of the whole,” Steffens says. “When you look at the building in the evening when the sun is going down, it is absolutely amazing to see what the stainless steel does with this red light.”

Project Credits

Project Q1 Building, ThyssenKrupp Quarter
Location ThyssenKrupp Allee 1, D-45143 Essen, Germany
Client/Owner ThyssenKrupp AG
Architect JSWD Architekten | Chaix & Morel et Associés
Team Patrick Jaenke (responsible partner, JSWD); Maic Auschrat (project director, JSWD); Walter Grasmug (responsible partner, C&M); Misha Kramer (project director, C&M)
General Planning & Project Mangement ECE Projektmanagement, Hamburg
Structural Engineer IDN Ingenieure, Duisburg
Electrical Engineer Dörflinger & Partner, Erfurt; ITS Ingenieurtechnik Scholz, Essen
Civil Engineer IDN Ingenieure, Duisburg
Geotechnical Engineer Asmus & Prabucki Ingenieure, Essen
Landscape Architect KLA Kiparlandschaftsarchitekten, Andreas Kipar, Duisburg and Mailand
Lighting Designer LichtKunstLicht AG, Bonn and Berlin
Specialist Consultant Panoramic Window Q1 Werner Sobek, Stuttgart
Sunshade/Solar Protection Consultant Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Freiburg
Façade Area Consultant Priedemann Fassadenberatung, Berlin (L.PH. 24 Planning); AMP Beratende Ingenieure, Neuss (L.PH. 5–8 implementation planning)
WindConsultant Ingenieurgesellschaft Niemann & Partner, Kassel
Size of Headquarters Building 118,295 square feet (active space)
Size of Campus 325,070 gross square feet
Total Cost 85.2 million € ($115.96 million)

Materials and Sources

Building Management Systems and Services Siemens Building
Ceilings Lummel
Exterior Wall Systems (Façade) Schüco International
Elevators ThyssenKrupp Elevator (Twin elevator system with stainless steel cladding)
Glass Innoverre; Hefi Glaskonstruktiv
Interior Doors Hörmann
Metal ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe (sunshading fins and louvers)
Plumbing and Water System Kaldewei; KEUCO
Walls (Partition Panels) Strähle Raum-Systeme
Windows, Curtain Walls, and Doors Dorma

By:Katie Gerfen
October 17, 2010

rchi-Union Architects converts old fabric warehouse into new office & exhibition space

October 17, 2010

New architectual identity for Sabah Al-Salem University by Perkins+Will

The University’s goals for the Sabah Al-Salem University City College of Education project included the creation of a strong, individual identity for the College within a larger university; a student-centred learning environment that would foster a community of learning; plans that met a high level of sustainable design with daylight to all classrooms, offices and primary circulation spaces.

Kuwait’s large swings in temperature (from 5ºC to 60ºC) and relative humidity (from 5% to 85%) challenged the design team to find innovative ways to balance community and comfort with low energy use and environmental sensitivity. The design solution creates two five-story rectangular buildings containing modular, repetitive ‘a priori’ learning spaces that are juxtaposed against a free-form, undulating ‘boardwalk’ enclosing a variety of ‘a posteriori’ learning support spaces (e.g. lounges, group study niches and computer stations) that are carved through the length and height of the structures, connecting all floors and functions. The interplay of solid and void between the mass of the buildings and the meandering of The Boardwalk define the architectural identity of the College, and the belief that classroom-based learning must, in the 21st Century, be complemented by an equally vital informal learning environment in which learning continues beyond the doors of the classroom. Accessed from The Boardwalk, a series of large internal garden courtyards — ‘Oases’ — function as major amenity nodes (cafeteria, library, lobby, and auditorium) for the college, filled with daylight and sheathed in greenery, all highly visible from the learning spaces that surround and overlook them.

The building’s self-shading skin has been calibrated to its specific solar exposure in order to maximise daylight penetration but minimise both solar heat gain and glare. The addition of a ground glass diffusing fin at each window captures and disperses daylight deep into each learning space, while contributing to the solar protection. The project is expected to earn a LEED-NC Gold rating when complete in 2014.


October 17, 2010

The days of glass panes and aluminum frames are clearly on their way out,

Building New Skins

Friday, October 15, 2010 11:22 am


The curtain-wall is perhaps the defining innovation of twentieth century architecture. Since the heyday of high modernism, a search for new building forms has usually meant grappling with a glass and steel grid. But as the demands on architecture have changed, in terms of energy performance and sustainable materials, we’ve had to completely rethink the role of a building’s skin.  Earlier this year, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued an open call for innovative designs of curtain-wall systems. Six of the entries they received were selected to form the “Innovate” section of the exhibition Innovate: Integrate at New York’s Center for Architecture (CFA.)

SyracuseThe days of glass panes and aluminum frames are clearly on their way out, and so is the grid. The exhibition space is full of weird white forms, an abundance of solar panels, and highly complex mechanics. An early version of the Integrated Concentrating Solar Façade system (left), was aMetropolis Next Generation runner-up in 2004. Licensed by HeliOptix and developed by the  CASE / Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the working prototype on display here looks like an array of television picture tubes. But each transparent pyramid actually contains tiny solar cells that swivel to catch direct sunlight as much as possible.  Perkins+Will’s Self-Shading Curtain Wall, designed for Kuwait University, uses its geometry to avoid the sun as much as possible, creating a characteristically crinkled, faceted surface. Fluent Adipose Tectonic, by form-ula, sets out to right the wrongs of existing curtain walls. The retrofit photo-voltaic panels not only generate electricity for the building, but also shade the interiors, and reduce heat gain.

The piece-de-resistance of the show is a full-size, two-storey prototype of the concrete and glass Liquid Wall, developed by Peter Arbour and RFR Consulting Engineers. At first glance, it seems like a mildly eccentric cousin of a standard curtain wall—the only visible difference being that the concrete frames are white and wavy, like something designed by a timid Gaudi. It turns out that the shape of the frames actually corresponds to the stresses on a curtain wall, and the use of a high-performance concrete called Ductal means that the sections can be incredibly thin. The curvy forms are made possible by the use of rubber moulds, which are also on display. If that were not innovative enough, liquid flowing in tubes set in the wall can carry heat away from the parts of the façade that receive direct sunlight, and use it in parts of the building that require heating.

The larger aim of Innovate: Integrate is to educate the public about current building technologies. But the “Integrate” part of the exhibition, which actually tries to explain construction in the 21st century, is relegated to a lower floor.  Very short write-ups and videos explain the various processes, from the more familiar BIM (Building Information Modeling), to the highly experimental 3-D concrete printing technology developed at the Loughborough University in the UK. There’s a large interactive projection of the BIM model of Yankee stadium, but it is unlikely that a member of the general public will be brave enough to navigate BIM’s rather complex interface and get anything meaningful out of the model.

The didactic mission is perhaps better served by the programming planned by the CFA for the duration of the exhibition. Beginning on October 19 with an in-depth discussion of the Liquid Wall prototype, a series of events will go into further details of various aspects of the exhibition. There is a symposium on Innovation by Necessity, a talk on Advancements in the Building Industry, and even a Family Day, where kids can try their hand at building some innovative structures of their own.

Innovate: Integrate is a great behind-the-scenes look at the forces shaping architecture today. The new curtain-wall systems offer not only better functionality and energy efficiency, but also look very different from what we are used to. We have long been asking if sustainability will result in a new aesthetic; here we are presented with six answers to that question. And if one part of the exhibition outshines the other, it is only symptomatic of the times. Architects themselves are still grappling with the full implications of new technologies like BIM. For the time being, it appears, we innovate better than we integrate.

Innovate: Integrate is on view till 15 January, 2011, at the Center for Architecture, New York.