According to a recent article on azcentral.com, Phoenix’s Warehouse District is in the midst of a renaissance. Or is it? The man behind several adaptive reuse projects in the neighborhood says not so fast. “It’s like every five years someone gets excited about it and writes the same article,” said developer Michael Levine. While he admits there’s been an uptick in interest in the mid-century industrial buildings, he doubts his fellow landowners’ motives. “If you give them enough money…they’d have the [buildings] demolished,” he said.
Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, has a bone to pick with modernism and its legacy. “For the last 100 years, architecture’s been involved in a silly tension between form and function,” he said. While high modernism privileged function over form, some of today’s top designers argue that architecture is about aesthetics and not much else. REX has a different take: architecture, the firm claims, is both function and form. “We really believe that architecture can do things. It’s not just a representational art form,” said Prince-Ramus. “We talk about performance. Aesthetics are part of performance [as is function.]”
So much of design work today is solitary. It involves sitting in front of a computer—crunching data, building renderings, and running evaluations on digital models. But that’s not the full picture. AEC professionals rely on personal connections to identify projects, connect with clients, and learn new skills. Whether a business meeting or a chat over cocktails, face-to-face interactions still matter.
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Rotterdam Centraal Station’s relationship to the existing urban fabric called for different treatments of its north and south facades.
To call the commission for a new central railway station in Rotterdam complicated would be an understatement. The project had multiple clients, including the city council and the railway company ProRail. The program was complex, encompassing the north and south station halls, train platforms, concourse, commercial space, offices, outdoor public space, and more. Finally, there was the station’s relationship to Rotterdam itself: while city leaders envisioned the south entrance as a monumental gateway to the city, the proximity of an historic neighborhood to the north necessitated a more temperate approach. Team CS, a collaboration among Benthem Crouwel Architekten, MVSA Meyer en Van Schooten Architecten, and West 8, achieved a balancing act with a multipart facade conceived over the project’s decade-long gestation. On the south, Rotterdam Centraal Station trumpets its presence with a swooping triangular stainless steel and glass entryway, while to the north a delicate glass-house exterior defers to the surrounding urban fabric. Read More
As most AEC professionals know, technology can be either a help or a hindrance when it comes to the design of high-performance building envelopes. Software programs like Grasshopper and Autodesk Vasari offer powerful tools for generating, modeling, and analyzing facades. But there’s a catch. Without a firm grasp of the programs’ capabilities, users can lose data, overlook important features, or otherwise negate the advantages inherent to digital design. Read More
The road to fruition for the Frank Gehry–designed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial has been full of twists and turns. And now, it seems, the Los Angeles architect’s plans may have reached a dead end. Last week, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted seven to three to reject the preliminary site and building plans for the memorial. The vote followed five hours of testimony from the proposal’s supporters and detractors, including House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa spoke against one of the design’s most (but not only) controversial features: the massive stainless-steel “tapestries” meant to depict scenes from Eisenhower’s life.
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A high-performance facade weaves a diverse program into a single volume.
The School of Law at the University of Baltimore was founded nearly nine decades ago, but for most of that time its classrooms, offices, library, and clinics were scattered among several downtown buildings. That changed last year, with the opening of the John and Frances Angelos Law Center. Designed by Behnisch Architekten with Ayers Saint Gross, the Angelos Law Center unites a diverse program within a single 12-story structure. Its checkerboard envelope, which won Best Facade in AN’s 2014 Best of Design Awards, weaves the building’s three principal components—a classroom and office wing, the library, and a central atrium—into a single volume. In addition, the facade positions the university on the cutting edge of sustainable design. Its integrated approach to energy efficiency has helped the Angelos Law Center win several green-building prizes, and set it on track to achieve LEED platinum status. Read More
Innovations in building envelope design typically take one of two forms. The first concerns the materials themselves, and the application of developments in the science of glass, metal, concrete, wood, and plastics to architecture. The second has to do with how the facade mediates between the building interior and the environment.
In a world of extreme weather events and rapid sociological change, architects must invent new ways to marry flexibility, resilience, and sustainability in facade design.
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A translucent polycarbonate skin transforms an early-19th century Massachusetts home.
On a well-traveled street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about halfway between Harvard University and MIT, sits a house not like its neighbors. Its simple massing and pitched roof indicate old bones. But its skin is all 21st century. The house, recently renovated by Alessandro Armando and Manfredo di Robilant, is clad in translucent polycarbonate panels that reveal the structural and insulating layers beneath. For the architects, the project was an experiment in applying a cladding system designed for large-scale projects to a single-family home. “We thought this could be a possible test-bed for something more standard, something that could at least be thought of as a standard way of renovating and improving a typical American detached house,” said di Robilant. “This house is very small, but we’re now trying to fit it toward possible standardization of this approach.” Read More
Architect Gordon Gill has one simple rule for facade design: seek performance first, and beauty will follow. Gill, who will give the opening keynote address at next month’s facades+PERFORMANCE conference in New York, is a founding partner at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, a firm known for pushing the boundaries of what architecture is and does. Gill and his team start by “establishing a language of architecture that’s based in the performance of a building,” he said. “We’re trying to understand the role of the building in the environment it’s being built in, then shape the building in order to benefit it the best way. Once we take that approach, the facades play a pretty rich role in either absorbing or reflecting the environment.”