Synthesis 3D prints a rocking chair

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Synthesis Design + Architecture's Durotaxis Chair showcases the unique capabilities of the Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 printer. (IMSTEPF Films)

Synthesis Design + Architecture’s Durotaxis Chair showcases the unique capabilities of the Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 printer. (IMSTEPF Films)

Durotaxis rocker features gradient mesh informed by function, ergonomics, and aesthetics.

For Synthesis Design + Architecture founding principal Alvin Huang, there is a lot to love about 3D printing. But he does not always like how the technology is applied. “I see it all the time—a lot of students just 3D print everything,” said Huang, who also teaches at the USC School of Architecture. “You see things that could have been done better, faster, or cleaner by hand. I find it a very troublesome predicament we’re in, we’re letting the tool dictate.” When Stratasys contacted Synthesis about designing a piece for their Objet500 Connex3 printer, the architects decided to turn the relationship between human and machine on its head. Instead of asking how they could implement a preconceived design using the Objet printer, they challenged themselves to create something that could only be manufactured using this particular tool. Durotaxis Chair, a prototype of which debuted at the ACADIA 2014 conference, showcases Objet’s multi-material 3D printing capabilities with a gradient mesh that visually communicates the rocker’s function and ergonomics.

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Facade Alterations by Bruner/Cott Turn Steam Plant Inside Out

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Bruner/Cott renovated a 1925 McKim, Mead & White steam plant to create a new student event space for Amherst College. (David Lamb)

Bruner/Cott renovated a 1925 McKim, Mead & White steam plant to create a new student event space for Amherst College. (David Lamb)

Renovation transforms decommissioned McKim Mead & White building into campus event space.

When Amherst College decided to convert a former steam plant into a student event space, the choice likely struck some observers as odd. Designed in 1925 by McKim, Mead & White, the coal-burning plant was decommissioned in the 1960s; since the 1980s, it had been used as a makeshift garage for ground equipment.  The facade of the neglected building needed to be opened up to reveal its potential while respecting its good bones. “It wasn’t in great shape, but it wasn’t in terrible shape,” said Bruner/Cott‘s Dana Kelly. “Impressively enough, the school recognized that it had qualities that could be harnessed for a new student space.” The brick building’s industrial aesthetic was a particular draw, said Kelly, whose firm has spearheaded renovations at the nearby MASS MoCA (itself a former industrial complex) since the museum opened in 1999. For Amherst College, Bruner/Cott took a similar approach, balancing preservation and alteration to support the new program without disrupting the historic building’s essential character.

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Talking SHoP with facades expert Gregg Pasquarelli

SHoP Architects' 626 First Avenue, currently under construction. (Courtesy SHoP)

SHoP Architects’ 626 First Avenue, currently under construction. (Courtesy SHoP)

Since its founding in 1996, SHoP Architects has been committed to fostering architectural innovation despite on-the-ground constraints. In New York, those constraints often take the form of municipal regulations. “From day one SHoP was always a firm that was interested in pushing the limits of design, really getting into materials and craftsmanship,” said principal Gregg Pasquarelli. “But we were also building in the pressure tank of New York, where a lot of the innovation has to occur in the skins of the buildings, because zoning is so prescriptive.” Pasquarelli will outline his firm’s approach to cutting-edge facade design in the context of New York’s regulatory environment in the afternoon keynote address at next month’s Facades+ NYC conference.

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Thorsten Helbig on Engineering Cutting-Edge Facades

Knippers Helbig provided custom parametric modeling, full facade engineering service, and structural design for Massimiliano Fuskas' Shenzhen International Airport. (Courtesy Massimiliano Fuksas)

Knippers Helbig provided custom parametric modeling, full facade engineering service, and structural design for Massimiliano Fuskas’ Shenzhen International Airport. (Courtesy Massimiliano Fuksas)

As an engineer, Thorsten Helbig, co-founder of Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering, has a unique perspective on facade design. “We conceptualize a facade as an integral part of a whole, as part of a larger system,” he explained. Helbig, who will deliver the morning keynote address at next month’s Facades+ NYC conference, identified two focal points. The first is the relationship of the building envelope to structure. The second is performance: “What can the facade offer back to the building?” Helbig asked

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Ephemeral Field House by design/buildLAB

Architecture, East, Envelope
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
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Students enrolled in Virginia Tech's design/buildLAB designed and built Sharon Fieldhouse over the course of an academic year. (Jeff Goldberg/ESTO)

Students enrolled in Virginia Tech’s design/buildLAB designed and built Sharon Fieldhouse over the course of an academic year. (Jeff Goldberg/ESTO)

Virginia Tech students demonstrate a light touch with glass and steel pavilion.

The undergraduate architecture students enrolled in Virginia Tech‘s design/buildLAB begin each academic year with an ambitious goal: to bring a community service project from concept through completion by the end of the spring semester. In addition to the usual budget and time constraints, the 15 students taking part in the course during the 2013-2014 school year faced an additional challenge. Their project, a public pavilion for Clifton Forge Little League in the tiny hamlet of Sharon, Virginia, was entirely lacking in contextual cues. “It was interesting because our previous design-build projects have been downtown, with lots of context,” said Keith Zawistowski, who co-founded and co-directs design/buildLAB with his wife, Marie. “Instead, we had a pristine, grassy field with a view of the mountains. We joke that this is our first group of minimalists.” The students’ understated solution—three geometric volumes unified by the consistent use of a vertical sunscreen—turns the focus back to the pavilion‘s surroundings with a restrained material palette of concrete, glass, and steel.
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This Week> Facades+AM Washington Three by Three

Facades+ AM is coming to Washington, DC on March 5. (Nicolas Raymond/Flickr)

Facades+ AM is coming to Washington, DC on March 5. (Nicolas Raymond/Flickr)

With its combination of iconic references to the nation’s past and the machinery that drives our political present, Washington, DC presents a particular set of problems and possibilities to facades innovators. Top experts in high-performance building envelope design and construction will this gather this Thursday, March 5, to explore some of these issues during Facades+ AM: Washington Three by Three, a morning seminar taking place at the District Architecture Center.

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Clive Wilkinson Architects Makes a Superdesk

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Clive Wilkinson Architects designed a continuous work surface dubbed the Superdesk for New York advertisers the Barbarian Group. (Michael Moran)

Clive Wilkinson Architects designed a continuous work surface dubbed the Superdesk for New York advertisers the Barbarian Group. (Michael Moran)

Endless table materializes intra-office connectivity in plywood, MDF, and epoxy.

When Culver City-based Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA) sat down with representatives of the Barbarian Group to discuss renovating the advertising agency’s new 20,000-square-foot office, one word kept coming up: connection. “Before, they were all in offices designed for one person, but crammed five in each, and scattered,” recalled associate principal Chester Nielsen. “It was a pain. Bringing everyone into the open, and having them feel like they were all connected was super important.” The architects elected to “surgically gut” the leased New York Garment District loft to create a central workspace for between 125-175 employees. To materialize the theme of connection, they zeroed in on the idea of a single work surface, an endless table later christened the Superdesk. With 4,400 square feet of epoxy-coated surface atop a support structure comprising 870 unique laser-cut plywood panels, the Superdesk is a triumph of programmatic creativity. “Building a big table was not an obvious solution,” said Nielsen, “but it’s a simple one.”
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Des Moines Dialogue by Substance Architecture

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Substance Architecture's pavilion and pump stations are part of Des Moines' Principal Riverwalk development. (Paul Crosby)

Substance Architecture’s pavilion and pump stations are part of Des Moines’ Principal Riverwalk development. (Paul Crosby)

Zinc and glass unite riverfront pavilion and pump house.

In 2009, just as construction on its Principal Riverwalk pavilion was about to begin—and following years of funding-related stops and starts—Des Moines-based Substance Architecture received some unexpected news. The firm was commissioned to design a second building, a pump house, on an abutting plaza. At that point, recalled Substance’s Paul Mankins, it had been about three years since the firm started work on the pavilion. “There was some discussion in the office about whether the pump house should be an independent piece, or whether it should be formally related to the pavilion,” he said. “Our decision was that the pavilion would be stronger if it had this piece as a foil.” Using a limited material palette of zinc and glass accented by Jun Kaneko‘s artwork, Substance succeeded in creating a dialogue between the two small riverfront buildings, despite their differing programs and dates of origin.

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High-Tech History by Hacin + Associates

Architecture, East, Envelope
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
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Hacin + Associates' District Hall is the centerpiece of Boston's new Innovation District. (Bruce Martin)

Hacin + Associates’ District Hall is the centerpiece of Boston’s new Innovation District. (Bruce Martin)

Innovation center’s corrugated metal envelope evokes Boston’s seagoing past.

Commissioned to design District Hall, the centerpiece of Boston‘s emerging Innovation District, Hacin + Associates found themselves in a unique situation. “There was no context,” recalled design team member Matthew Arnold. “We were one of the first buildings down there; we had to build our own story.” To fill the gap, the architects looked to the site’s history. “In the old days, goods came from around the world to the Boston seaport, then were distributed throughout the United States,” said founding principal David Hacin. “We were thinking that this is analogous to an innovation center: ideas are born in this place, then distributed around the world.” Wrapped in corrugated metal punctuated by strategic glazing, its two volumes informed by nautical and railroad architecture, District Hall captures both the glory of Boston’s seagoing past and the promise of its high-tech future.

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The Principals Make Music with Mylar

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Ancient Chaos, a sound reactive installation designed by The Principals with musician Dev Hynes, debuted at Neuehouse last fall. (Bryan Derballa)

Ancient Chaos, a sound reactive installation designed by The Principals with musician Dev Hynes, debuted at Neuehouse last fall. (Bryan Derballa)

Collaborative installation translates sound into motion.

When Brooklyn-based design and fabrication studio The Principals began collaborating with musician Dev Hynes on Ancient Chaos, a sound reactive installation commissioned by speaker company Sonos, they had only a vague sense of the project’s goals. “The general concept was that we wanted to create an architecture that was fluid like sound, and to create sounds that were architectural,” said co-founder Seskunas. “We wanted to have an installation that was both of those things but neither—a very ephemeral, nebulous concept of what sound and architecture could be.” Then Seskunas went surfing with a friend, and, in between sets, found himself mesmerized by the ever-changing play of sunlight on the ocean. “Could we create an architecture that had this quality to it?” he questioned. Constructed from 6,000 individual pieces of Mylar set in motion by high-powered stepper motors, Ancient Chaos answers Seskunas’ question in the affirmative. The installation, which debuted at New York’s Neuehouse last year, is a moving meditation on the relationship between sound and space.
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Facades+ is Coming to NYC in April

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The premier conference on high-performance building enclosures is coming to NYC this April. (Sean Davis/Flickr)

The premier conference on high-performance building enclosures is coming to NYC this April. (Sean Davis/Flickr)

As building envelopes become more complex, it is imperative that AEC professionals exit their specialist silos and come together to share lessons learned. Facades+, the premier conference on high-performance building enclosures, offers a unique opportunity to interact with the movers and shakers of the AEC industry. Fresh off successful runs in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, Facades+ is coming next to New York, April 16-17, 2015.

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Shelter Subterfuge by ASK Studio

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Giovanettii Community Shelter's glass and cedar facade belies its function as a FEMA safe room. (Cameron Campbell, Integrated Studio)

Giovanettii Community Shelter’s glass and cedar facade belies its function as a FEMA safe room. (Cameron Campbell, Integrated Studio)

Architectural sleight of hand transforms a FEMA safe room from bunker to glass box.

Tasked with designing a community center on a shoestring budget, Des Moines–based ASK Studio was unsure how to fit the program to the project’s finances. Then an attendee at a community feedback session suggested applying for FEMA funds to build a combination community room and storm shelter. The FEMA tie-in solved the money problem, but it created an aesthetic challenge. The architects had originally diagrammed the community center, sited atop a central knoll in a large park in Urbandale, Iowa, as a connection point that would orient visitors without obstructing views. When the project was redefined as a safe room, said ASK’s Brent Schipper, “I just cringed, because how do you have a transparent node that’s also a tornado shelter? I thought, ‘We’re going to make a bunker, and pretend it works as the node of the centerpiece of the park.'” Luckily, Schipper’s gut reaction proved wrong. A triumph of architectural sleight of hand, ASK’s Giovannetti Community Shelter is built evidence that “welcoming safe room” is not an oxymoron.

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