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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.
San Diego’s New Central Library, which opened earlier this fall, was a long time coming. The project has been in the works since at least 1971, when the first of 46 studies on the subject of a new library building was published. Rob Wellington Quigley, FAIA, who designed the $184.9 million structure with Tucker Sadler & Associates, came on board in 1995. Why did he stick with it so long, through budget problems and four site changes? “It’s in my backyard,” Quigley said. “It was just too important a project, culturally, to the city, and to all of us…though it was very difficult, economically, to withstand all the stops and starts.”
As AN reported in our latest West Coast issue, designs for the Amazon headquarters in downtown Seattle have gone through another revision since this past May. Though still channeling greenhouses and conservatories, renderings reveal an update to the three interconnected domes on Block 19 that architecture firm NBBJ has dubbed “conjoined Catalan spheres.” With a skin of white painted steel, the new design has moved beyond more traditional cross-hatching, and now nods to the pentagons of a soccer ball. But these forms are expanded and pushed to create an irregular pattern that exerts a more organic geometry. Read more about the project in AN‘s article or check out an expanded gallery of renderings below.
On View> “Mixtec Stonecutting Artistry: 16th Century Ribbed Vaults in Mixteca, Mexico” Opens August 24
Mixtec Stonecutting Artistry: 16th Century Ribbed Vaults in Mixteca, Mexico
HGA Gallery Rapson Hall, Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota
89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN
August 24, 2013 to October 13, 2013
Sixteenth century Mexico was home to buildings of extraordinary construction quality erected for the thousands of people converting to Christianity. Indigenous craftsmen utilized the most sophisticated technology and their profound understanding of locally accessible materials in an intricate system of symbiosis to collaborate with Spanish architects who were experienced with the architecture of the ribbed vault. Employing Mixtecan masonry techniques and European geometry, they collaborated to construct three churches in the Mixteca region of southern Mexico with sophisticated geometrical vaults unique to 16th century America. Through digitally scanning San Pablo Teposcolula, Santa Domingo Yanhuitlán, and San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca, researcher and guest curator Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, was able to produce scale replicas of each gothic dome.
Mixtec Stonecutting Artistry: 16th Century Ribbed Vaults in Mixteca, Mexico, on view from August 24 to October 13, 2013, reveals the complex digital scanning, documentation, and three-dimensional modeling that facilitated the research and replication of the rib vaults in the late 20th century.
French Pritzker Prize–winning architect Jean Nouvel‘s design for Louvre Abu Dhabi has begun construction after a series of delays. The building’s most prominent feature is a 180-meter-diameter dome. The design of the dome is culturally relevant as well as utilitarian. The shape is prominent in traditional Arabian architecture. As the Louvre Abu Dhabi website describes, it is “an emblematic feature…evoking the mosque, the mausoleum, and the madrasa.” The dome’s expanse also protects the building and its visitors from the sun. Carefully formulated geometric apertures in the all-white structure allow diffused and dappled daylight inside the museum, while mitigating heat gain. Nouvel designed the dappled pattern to emulate interlaced palm fronds, which are traditionally used in Arabic countries for thatch roofs.
Amazon renderings released this week in a Seattle design review board meeting would have made the late Buckminster Fuller proud. They reveal new plans for an additional structure on the proposed three-block, three-tower Amazon complex in downtown Seattle: three five-story conjoined biodomes up to 95 feet tall, with the largest 130 feet in diameter. These glass and steel domes, envisioned by local firm NBBJ, would provide 65,000 square feet of interior flex work and brainstorm areas for Amazon employees, while leaving abundant space to accommodate trees and diverse plantings. Inspiration came from nature found indoors—in greenhouses, conservatories, and convention centers around the world. From Renzo Piano’s “Bolla” in Genoa, to the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken in Brussels. (Fun fact: the largest dome in the United States—an indoor sports arena—is in fact in Washington State, in Tacoma, a city south of Seattle.)
Rockaway Beach, the waterfront community severely battered by Hurricane Sandy, is now the site of MoMA PS1′s geodesic dome, a temporary cultural center offering lectures, exhibits, performances, and community events. PS1 kicked off the opening of the VW Dome 2 last Friday with a performance by singer Patti Smith, a fellow Rockaways resident. The museum will collaborate with local organizations in Queens to provide a range of programming over the next few months.
Oklahoma City just cannot tear down its architectural landmarks fast enough! The city and its developer community have been trying to do away with John Johansen‘s famous Mummers Theater and now David Box, a local developer, wants to get rid of a unique geodesic dome built in 1958 on Route 66. The developer—who claims among other things that the roof leaks and “you can’t just call a normal roofer and say hey we got a geodesic dome here can you fix it”—will give anyone who wants the dome a $100,000 bonus to take it off his property so he can fill it in and “make it safe.” The structure was originally built to house a bank and has been declared eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and was designed by local architects Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson, and Roloff based on Buckminster Fuller‘s patented dome.
Walking into the large, egg-like structure of the MoMA Ps1 Performance Dome, the German electronic band Kraftwerk’s song “Man-Machine” was the perfect accompaniment to the architecture. Their music represents the kind of progressive attitude towards materials (instruments) and aesthetics (sounds) that is captured perfectly in the temporary structure. A shiny, white, geodesic dome reminiscent of fellow early techno-fetishist Buckminster Fuller, the space features a super-high-fidelity sound system, 8 screens projecting various computer art, and not much else. It is the ideal pairing of minimalism and technology with Kraftwerk’s slick electronic melodies. Read More
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A research project explores techniques from the past to learn about building stronger structures in the future
Sometimes research involves destruction in the name of creation. Architects and engineers from Zurich-based BLOCK Research Group at science and technology university ETH Zurich recently teamed up to build, and destroy, a vaulted masonry structure that was designed with advanced digital fabrication methods but constructed with traditional timbrel, or Catalan, thin-tile vaulting techniques. Through its research of freeform shells, tiling patterns, building sequences, and formwork, the group hopes to construct increasingly radical forms without sacrificing efficiency.
City of Scientists. Russian Prime Minister Putin has recently reviewed plans for a potential $6.4 billion project that could build a 5,000-person—scientists and researchers, specifically—domed village in the Arctic called Umka, about 1,000 miles from the North Pole. Plans call for an isolated artificial climate inspired by “an imaginary Moon city or a completely isolated space station.” More on the Daily Mail and Foreign Policy Blogs.
Abu Dhabi Adjourned. The new 450,000-square-foot Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum planned in Abu Dhabi has been put on hold pending contract review. A similar fate awaits Jean Nouvel’s Louvre satellite previously scheduled to open near Gehry’s site next year. More at Mediabistro.
Sergey’s Secret. Due to his prolific work ethic, the insider joke at Google is that co-founder Sergey Brin is really Batman. More believable, the latest Google rumor is that one of Brin’s secret pet-projects may very well be architectural, with blueprints and all. Business Insider has details.
No bin, no trash. The NY Times reports on the MTA’s seemingly counter-intuitive enviro-social experiment to remove trash cans from subway platforms. The idea: no garbage bin might be the way to achieve no litter. A trial run in Queens and Greenwich Village left some people very unhappy.