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Boston Valley Terra Cotta restored the Alberta Legislature Building’s century-old dome using a combination of digital and traditional techniques.
Restoring a century-old terra cotta dome without blueprints would be a painstaking process in any conditions. Add long snowy winters and an aggressive freeze/thaw cycle, and things start to get really interesting. For their reconstruction of the Alberta Legislature Building dome, the craftsmen at Boston Valley Terra Cotta had a lot to think about, from developing a formula for a clay that would stand up to Edmonton’s swings in temperatures, to organizing just-in-time delivery of 18,841 components. Their answer? Technology. Thanks to an ongoing partnership with Omar Khan at the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, the Orchard Park, New York, firm’s employees are as comfortable with computers as they are with hand tools.
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StructureCraft fabricates an orchid-shaped roof that supports vegetation and Living Building Challenge principles.
After serving patrons at one of Vancouver’s oldest botanical gardens for nearly 100 years, the VanDusen Gardens Visitors Centre had fallen dangerously into disrepair. Perkins+Will Canada conceived of a new, orchid-shaped center that meets CaGBC’s LEED Platinum ratings, and is the country’s first structure to target the International Living Building Challenge with features like geothermal boreholes, a 75-square meter photovoltaic array, and a timber roof that supports vegetation. To help fabricate the wooden structure to Perkins + Will Canada’s vision, the team contracted StructureCraft, a Vancouver-based design-build studio specializing in timber craftsmanship and structural solutions.
Initial designs for the 19,000-square-foot building were delivered to StructureCraft as Rhino files. The uniquely shaped rooftop, which mimics an outline of the indigenous British Columbia orchid, had to be economically fabricated in a way that took net carbon effects into account. Within Rhino plugins—mainly Grasshopper—and with the help of strucutral engineers Fast + Epp, the StructureCraft team sliced the shape of the building into 71 long, curved panels of repeatable geometries. “Each curve is unique, so there’s a different radii for each beam,” said Lucas Epp, a structural engineer who worked on the project. “We optimized the global geometry of the roof so the radii of all the beams were in our fabrication tolerances but still achieved the architect’s desired aesthetic.” Read More
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In 2011, a major expansion to Edmonton, Alberta’s Quesnell Bridge generated an ongoing effort to enliven the landscape surrounding the overpass, which connects the northwest and southwest portions of Canada’s fifth largest city. A resultant public art commission from the Edmonton Arts Council for Los Angeles–based multidisciplinary design-build fabricators Ball-Nogues Studio called for an engaging installation along the south side of the North Saskatchewan River, which sees a live load of 120,000 vehicles each day.
While brainstorming the project, it was apparent to the firm’s principal and designer in charge Benjamin Ball that the areas immediately surrounding the bridge were not carefully considered by passengers. “It was a sort of no-man’s-land between the transportation infrastructure and the landscape,” he recently told AN. Drawing inspiration from the mundane—sand piles, gravel, and detritus from the trucking industry—and the majestic—talus and scree formations enveloping the base of surrounding cliffs—Ball and the studio’s cofounder Nogues applied their knowledge of sphere packing to echo the angle of repose of natural and man-made mounds. Read More
At the beginning of the 19th century, the city of Edmonton was considered one of Canada’s most important rail hubs. For over two decades the trains that once made Edmonton a prominent center of economic activity have ceased to run along those tracks, and the historic freight yard has remained vacant.
Over the years a prominent old overpass connecting 97th Street to Edmonton’s downtown rail yards has morphed into a poorly finished, unattractive concrete pedestrian walkway and bicycle path. This weekend designers Chelsea Boos, Carmen Douville, and Erin Ross, will begin working on a project to revitalize the historic landmark. According to the Edmonton Journal the artists, with the help of a group of volunteers, will bring the bridge back to life by planting 25 circular raised beds filled with vibrant flowers, indigenous plants, and edible crops from which visitors can actually pick fruit from.
Starchitects are descending on Toronto. First it was Frank Gehry with his plan for three 80-story skyscrapers on top of an art museum, and now Norman Foster with a massive plan to redevelop the Metro Toronto Convention Centre area adjacent to the CN Tower and Rogers Centre Stadium. Developed by Oxford Properties Group and dubbed Oxford Place, the plan calls for upgrades to the current convention center and four new towers for housing, office space, a hotel, and a casino surrounding a five-and-a-half acre park spanning a railroad.
Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War
Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920, rue Baile
Montréal, Québec, Canada
Through September 18
How did World War II impact the built environment? This new exhibit curated by Jean-Louis Cohen explores how 20th century architects contributed to the war efforts and how their work ultimately led to the modern structural and technological innovations that make some of today’s complex designs possible. WWII was an accelerator of technological innovation, and from 1937 to 1945 architects were frequently pressed to pursue the most modern solutions, which often meant the most cutting edge. Designed by New York-based WORKac, the exhibit is comprised of drawings, photographs, posters, books, publications, models, historical documents, and films that reveal how contemporary architecture left its mark on the landscapes of both the Axis and the Allied powers. Organized thematically, the exhibition focuses on wartime activity as well as architects and their projects in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the United States, and the USSR. Architecture in Uniform is part of a larger project at the CCA that examines the various roles of architecture from the Second World War to today called On the Natural History of Destruction.
Urban Archaeology. Our friends at Rustwire show us that there can be a kind of mournful beauty in industrial decay, as seen in a photo essay of defunct Ohio steel mills by Paul Grilli. The amazing images are part of a series by the Youngstown-based photographer, who is working to document every steel mill in the area.
Hot Chile. Inhabitat tells us that, aside from the Fenix capsule used to rescue trapped miners in October 2010, Chile can now boast of another design innovation that will benefit mine workers. In an effort to shield them from the relentless heat and sun of the Atacama Desert region, AATA Architects has come up with a motel-like residence made of shipping containers. And that’s not even the coolest part – they plan to cover the entire complex with a huge canvas roof to protect the men from the harsh environment.
Who’s the Boss? Design Observer ponders who architects are really working for. The potential for tension between designers, financiers and sometimes communities is nothing new. But adding a tyrannical dictator to the equation makes the question all the more compelling, especially when that dictatorial regime might misuse the involvement of a name-brand starchitect to purchase a “commodity of cultural acumen.”
Suburban Poor. Poverty isn’t just an inner-city problem. Planetizen brings news that the suburban city of Mississauga, Ontario is trying to come up with ways to best reach those populations that it deems underserved. Borrowing an idea from nearby Toronto, they want to identify ‘priority neighborhoods’ that are in need of access to services.