Grappling with Glare in High-Performance Facade Design

Portions of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall were sandblasted after construction to reduce glare. (Pedro Szekely / Flickr)

Portions of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall were sandblasted after construction to reduce glare. (Pedro Szekely / Flickr)

Frank Gehry‘s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Scott Johnson‘s Museum Tower in Dallas, and Rafael Viñoly‘s Vrada Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas have at least one thing in common. All three provoked the ire of their neighbors when glare from their reflective facades raised sidewalk temperatures, blinded drivers, or—as in the Museum Tower case—jeopardized the nearby Nasher Sculpture Center’s collections. Glare is increasingly a problem in facade design, says Curtainwall Design Consulting president Charles Clift, in part because of the tools contemporary architects have at their disposal. “The conclusion I came to is that the digital age of architecture has allowed designers to create anything they can imagine, but with that comes some unintended consequences.”

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BCJ’s Civic Center an Exercise in Democracy

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Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's design upends convention in favor of metaphorical and literal transparency. (Nic Lehoux)

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s design upends convention in favor of metaphorical and literal transparency. (Nic Lehoux)

Newport Beach’s central government complex emphasizes transparency, sustainability.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson‘s (BCJ) Newport Beach Civic Center is in one sense classically Southern Californian. With its light steel structure, plentiful windows, emphasis on indoor-outdoor spaces, and roofline inspired by ocean waves, it evokes a timeless delight in Pacific coast living. But it also represents something new, both for the city of Newport Beach and for civic architecture more generally. Built on a marshy site that had previously been written off as uninhabitable, the LEED Gold Civic Center and adjacent 16-acre park, designed by BCJ in cooperation with PWP Landscape Architecture, acts as a different kind of anchor for the automobile-oriented community. “It was shaped in part by a desire to create a great public space,” said principal in charge Greg Mottola. “How do you make an urban civic space in the context of the suburbs?” Read More

GLUCK+ Screens a Modern Great Camp

Architecture, East, Envelope
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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The two main buildings at GLUCK+'s Lakeside Retreat feature sliding wooden screens over massive glass curtain walls. (Courtesy GLUCK+)

The two main buildings at GLUCK+’s Lakeside Retreat feature sliding wooden screens over massive glass curtain walls. (Courtesy GLUCK+)

Custom sliding wood shades maximize privacy and views in Adirondack Mountains retreat.

Architect-led design build firm GLUCK+ designed the Lakeside Retreat in the Adirondack Mountains on an historic blueprint: the Great Camps, sprawling summer compounds built by vacationing families during the second half of the nineteenth century. “The clients wanted to hold events there, and to make a place where their kids—who were in college at the time—would want to spend time,” said project manager Kathy Chang. “They wanted to create different ways of occupying the space.” GLUCK+ carved the hilly wooded site into a series of semi-subterranean buildings, of which the two principal structures are the family house and the recreation building. These buildings are, in turn, distinguished by massive lake-facing glass facades, camouflaged by wooden screens designed to maximize both privacy and views. Read More

Old-School Meets New in Stantec’s Pew Library

Architecture, Envelope, Midwest
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Pew Library's multi-hued stone facade nods to the campus's historic brick and limestone architecture. (Courtesy SHW Group, now Stantec)

Pew Library’s multi-hued stone facade nods to the campus’s historic brick and limestone architecture. (Courtesy SHW Group, now Stantec)

Contemporary stone envelope asserts the continued relevance of book learning at GVSU.

For the new Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons at Grand Valley State University, SHW Group, now Stantec, considered a brick skin to tie it to the surrounding edifices. “But at the end of the day, the library, we believe, is one of the most important buildings on campus,” said senior design architect Tod Stevens. “That’s where we started to have a conversation about the library as it moves into the 21st century. We wanted to signal the continued importance of the library to university life.” To do so, the architects designed a quartzite envelope whose random pattern of stones sits in tension with an interlaid stainless steel grid. On the building’s north facade, a 40-foot-tall glass curtain wall creates an indoor/outdoor living room on the campus’s main pedestrian axis, and reveals Pew Library’s state-of-the-art interior to passersby.
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Rutgers Campus Cornerstone by TEN Arquitectos

Architecture, East, Envelope
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
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Folded anodized aluminum panels enclose the sides of the building that face away from campus. (Peter Aaron/ESTO)

Folded anodized aluminum panels enclose the sides of the building that face away from campus. (Peter Aaron/ESTO)

Parallel facade systems in contrasting materials mark the edge of development on a reimagined campus.

The new Rutgers Business School in Piscataway, New Jersey, is more than a collection of classrooms and offices. The building, designed by TEN Arquitectos, is a linchpin of the university’s Livingston campus, reconceived as an urban center for graduate studies and continuing education. “It established a frame,” said project manager James Carse, whose firm created a vision plan for the campus starting in the late 2000s. “We were interested in really marking the edge of campus to motivate future development to respect the campus boundary, rather than allowing or suggesting that this was a pervasive sprawl. We wanted to make sure this would set a pattern where infill would happen.” The Rutgers Business School’s tripartite envelope reinforces the distinction between outside and inside. While the sides of the building facing the boundary line are enclosed in folded anodized aluminum panels, the glass curtain walls opposite create a visual dialogue with the rest of campus. Read More

A Transparent Cathedral Addition by architectsAlliance

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The architects designed a transparent addition to the St. James Cathedral's 1910 Parish House. (Courtesy architectsAlliance)

The architects designed a glass addition to the St. James Cathedral’s 1910 Parish House. (Courtesy architectsAlliance)

A renovation and addition bring an historic church complex into the 21st century.

The Diocese of Toronto approached architectsAlliance (aA) about renovating the St. James Cathedral Centre with two objectives in mind. On a practical level, they wanted more space for the cathedral’s outreach program and the Diocesan archives, as well as quarters for the Dean of the Cathedral and visitors. At the same time, the Anglican leadership wanted to make a statement about the Church’s relevance to contemporary Canadian society. “The idea of the addition was to convey an image of the Church itself as a kind of more open institution, much more transparent and contemporary,” said aA’s Rob Cadeau. “[It was] really driven by the dean, who wanted to refresh the image of the Church.” Read More

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