Above Average pokes fun at kale-fueled gentrification with “Settlers of Brooklyn”

Development, East, Urbanism
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
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    In "Settlers of Brooklyn," players compete to "colonize" the outer boroughs. (Above Average)

In “Settlers of Brooklyn,” players compete to “colonize” the outer boroughs. (Above Average)

The comedy geniuses at digital network Above Average have released a glorious sendup of gentrification in New York City’s outer boroughs. “Settlers of Brooklyn” (pronounced Brook-LAWN) promises hours of good old-fashioned board-game fun for the next generation of power brokers: millennials.

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Deafening Silence: Morphosis designs a skyscraper in the Alps next to Peter Zumthor’s famous Therme Vals spa

Morphosis recently unveiled renderings of its 7132 Tower luxury hotel for Vals, Switzerland. (Courtesy Morphosis)

Morphosis recently unveiled renderings of its 7132 Tower luxury hotel for Vals, Switzerland. (Courtesy Morphosis)

Can a 1,250-foot-tall skyscraper qualify as “a minimalist object” under any circumstances? It depends on who you ask—particularly if the building in question, the 7132 Tower hotel designed by Los Angeles–based architecture firm Morphosis for a site in Vals, Switzerland, would go up next to Peter Zumthor’s understated Therme Vals spa.

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Olson Kundig Merges Western History and Modern Art

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Olson Kundig's extension to the Tacoma Art Museum comprises a new entrance canopy and a Richlite-clad gallery wing. (Benjamin Benschneider)

Olson Kundig’s extension to the Tacoma Art Museum comprises a new entrance canopy and a Richlite-clad gallery wing. (Benjamin Benschneider)

Richlite-clad museum expansion inspired by industrial context and Old West art collection.

Commissioned to craft an extension to the Antoine Predock–designed Tacoma Art Museum, Olson Kundig Architects sought inspiration in both the history of the site and the art collection itself. Located in the city’s Union Depot/Warehouse historic district, the museum is surrounded by brick buildings formerly dedicated to industry and transportation. “The new addition needed to respond to both the neighborhood context as well as the existing building,” explained design principal Tom Kundig. “It has clean lines that recall the existing structure but recalls more directly the natural, earthy materials found in the neighborhood.” In contrast to the stainless steel-clad original wing, which houses the museum’s modern art collection, the new wing—dedicated to the art of the American West—is wrapped in layers of Richlite sunscreens. “The addition’s use of exterior shutters references symbols of the American West—fences, filtered barn light, and railroad box cars,” said Kundig. “It’s fitting that the Haub Family’s Western American Art collection now sits at the westernmost terminus of the rail line established by President Lincoln.”

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Facades+ Tech Workshops: Quick-Take Continuing Education

Facades+ tech workshops offer hands-on exposure to design tools.

Facades+ tech workshops offer hands-on exposure to design tools.

In the constantly-evolving AEC industry, the importance of continuing technical education is difficult to understate. Yet learning opportunities for design and construction professionals tend to occupy two extremes, explained Thornton Tomasetti’s Jonatan Schumacher. “You can take a class, which is a long undertaking,” he said. “Or you can watch online lectures, which require self-motivation.” The Facades+ conference series offers a happy medium in the form of day-long tech workshops, providing hands-on exposure to new tools under the guidance of subject specialists.

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Jaklitsch/Gardner’s Three-Part Ode to Tokyo

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Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects' flagship Tokyo store for Marc Jacobs features a lantern-like, non-occupiable top story sheathed in punched aluminum. (Liao Yusheng)

Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects’ flagship Tokyo store for Marc Jacobs features a lantern-like, non-occupiable top story sheathed in punched aluminum. (Liao Yusheng)

Marc Jacobs flagship store features a tripartite facade of aluminum, tile, and glass.

Commissioned to design Marc Jacobs‘ flagship Tokyo store, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects‘ first order of business was to rectify the desire for an iconic urban presence with strict local regulations. To make the 2,800-square-meter shop more visible from nearby Omotesando Street, the architects took advantage of a loophole in the building code that allowed them to double the height of the structure as long as the top half was not occupiable. The catch was that the code required a 500-millimeter gap between the occupiable and non-occupiable spaces. “Our first strategy was to create a louvered facade system that would disguise [the divide],” recalled principal Stephan Jaklitsch. But after an afternoon walk through the Imperial gardens, they reversed course. “We were inspired by the vernacular architecture,” said project architect Jonathan Kirk. “We wanted to somehow utilize the language of proportions, but also the materiality within that experience. Rather than trying to create something that was monolithic, we began to look at different materials for each of the building’s components.” The result, called Tōrō Ishi Ku (lantern-rock-void), makes its mark on the city with a tripartite facade in punched aluminum, bespoke tile, and glass.
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Skyscraper Expert Antony Wood Calls for a Facades Revolution

Battery Park high-rises, New York City. (Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Battery Park high-rises, New York City. (Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

As the director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Dr. Antony Wood spends a lot of time thinking about the high-rise envelope, which he calls “its single most important interface to the external environment.” For decades, hermetically sealed glass was the gold standard in facade design for tall buildings. With sustainability an increasingly urgent priority, things have begun to change for the better, says Wood. “But we have barely scratched the surface,” he argues. “So much more needs to be done.” Wood will issue his call to action next month in a talk and subsequent panel discussion at Facades+ NYC, the premier conference on high performance building envelopes.

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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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