Marlon Blackwell on the Power of Everyday Design

Architecture, Southwest
Friday, September 19, 2014
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Marlon Blackwell Architects' Vol Walker Hall and Steven L. Anderson Design Center. (Timothy Hursley)

Marlon Blackwell Architects’ Vol Walker Hall and Steven L. Anderson Design Center. (Timothy Hursley)

Marlon Blackwell, principal of Marlon Blackwell Architects and distinguished professor and department head at the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, practices in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the temptation to design according to a derivative vernacular—and the risk of descending into quaintness—is great. Blackwell seeks instead to operate in the space between the vernacular and the universal, to create buildings that are simultaneously both and neither. “What emerges is something that I like to call the strangely familiar,” he said. “We’re working with forms in a cultural context that have a first reading of being familiar, but on a second, third, or fourth reading are clearly transgressive to either the local typology or the vernacular. What we try to do is kind of de-typify things—it’s really about trying to find or develop an idea about performative surfaces.” Read More

October 30–31: Facades+ Makes its Dallas Debut

Facades+, the premier conference on high-performance building envelopes, is coming to Dallas this October. (Bart Fields / Flickr)

Facades+, the premier conference on high-performance building envelopes, is coming to Dallas this October. (Bart Fields / Flickr)

Home to MorphosisPerot Museum of Nature and Science, the Santiago Calatrava–designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and a starchitecture-studded cultural district, Dallas is increasingly an architectural destination in its own right. This fall, AEC industry professionals have one more reason to visit: the inaugural Facades+ Dallas conference, taking place October 30–31 at CityPlace Events. Read More

Antoine Predock on Strata, Motorcycles, and the Building Skin

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Antoine Predock Architect’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights. (Aaron Cohen/Canadian Museum for Human Rights)

Despite his reputation for designing buildings with aesthetically and technically interesting envelopes, Antoine Predock, who will deliver the opening keynote address at next month’s Facades+ Dallas conference, does not spend a lot of time thinking about the facade as a separate entity. “I never use the term facade, because I work spatially,” he said. “I work from an inner process; then all of a sudden, whoops, there’s a facade.” Rather than designing from the outside in, Predock digs deep. “I talk about strata—like geologic strata,” he explained. “Every project has layers of meanings and understandings that finally culminate in this physical thing, but there’s all these strata below that.”

Continue reading after the jump.

Sustainability Expert Juan Betancur Talks Integrated Facades

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture's Federation of Korean Industries office tower. (©Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture/Namgoong Sun)

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture’s Federation of Korean Industries office tower. (©Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture/Namgoong Sun)

In a high-performance building, argues Juan Betancur, director at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the envelope must never be an afterthought. Rather, it should be a material expression of the overall environmental strategy. “The key to what we’re doing with energy and sustainability is: how do the systems become the facades themselves?” he said. “If we make it part of the building, it’s an integrated systems solution.” Read More

Hands-On Exposure to Cutting-Edge Technology at facades+Chicago

Participants in facades+ tech workshops learn and practice cutting-edge digital design technologies in an intimate setting.

Participants in facades+ tech workshops learn and practice cutting-edge digital design technologies in an intimate setting.

Contemporary architectural practice, and in particular the design of high-performance facades, is as much about mastering technology as it is about grappling with aesthetics and function. Attendees at next month’s facades+ Chicago conference will have an opportunity to explore cutting-edge digital design tools during a series of hands-on technology workshops. The tech workshops, which take place on the second day of the conference, follow a day-long symposium featuring keynotes and roundtable discussions by AEC industry leaders. “If on day 1 you’re being exposed to advancements in building methods, on day 2 you can learn the technology and techniques that are behind those applications,” said Mode Lab’s Ronnie Parsons. “It’s taking the next step from someone who’s in the audience to being a participant. Not just a participant who’s watching and engaged, but one who is actively involved in shaping what happens tomorrow.” Read More

Facade Expert Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido on the Perils of Homogenous Design

Leatop Plaza in Guangzhou, China. (Courtesy JAHN)

Leatop Plaza in Guangzhou, China. (Courtesy JAHN)

According to Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, president of Chicago-based JAHN, contemporary facade design neglects one of the building envelope’s foremost responsibilities: storytelling. “There is a focus now on using the building massing to convey the key message,” he said. “However, I think it’s through the facade that we can bring a more compelling narrative about how the building functions.” As an example, Gonzalez-Pulido pointed to Mies van der Rohe’s One IBM Plaza, which he can see from his office. “When you look at the mechanical floors, they’re treated differently,” he said. “In the lobby, the glass is different. This is actually the responsibility of the facade—it’s more than a piece of glass and metal to cover the building.” Read More

Video Sneak Peek: facades+ Chicago, July 24-25

Like our skin, a building’s facade is a critical intermediary between its interior functions and the outside environment. High-performance envelope design thus incorporates a variety of concerns, from aesthetics to sustainability. Next month, leading AEC industry professionals will gather in the Windy City for facades+ Chicago to discuss the future of facade design through the lens of the conference theme: resilience. For more information or to register, visit the facades+ Chicago website.

James Timberlake to US AEC Industry: Bring Facade Manufacturing Home

KieranTimberlake's Edgar N. Putnam Event Pavilion, James A. Michener Art Museum. (Michael Moran/OTTO)

KieranTimberlake’s Edgar N. Putnam Event Pavilion, James A. Michener Art Museum. (Michael Moran/OTTO)

KieranTimberlake has long pushed the boundaries of conventional facade design. The Philadelphia-based firm started using pressure-equalized rain screen systems in the 1980s, well before other architects brought the technology on board. Their Melvin J. and Claire Levine Hall, at the University of Pennsylvania (2003), was the first actively ventilated curtain wall in North America. The designers at KieranTimberlake have introduced new materials and assemblies, such as the SmartWrap building skin deployed at Cellophane House, part of MoMA’s Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling exhibit. One of the firm’s latest projects, the Embassy of the United States, London, incorporates an outer envelope of three-dimensional ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) panels with integrated photovoltaic cells.

Continue reading after the jump.

Digital Technologies and the Future of Facade Design

Among the AEC industry’s most powerful tools are digital technologies, from parametric modeler software to environmental analysis programs. Neil Thelen (Diller Scofidio + Renfro), Gordon Gill (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture), Edward Peck (Thornton Tomasetti), and Doris Sung (dO/Su Studio) took time out from April’s facades+ NYC conference to talk to our partners at Enclos about how technology is shaping the future of envelope design.

At next month’s facades+ Chicago conference, a series of tech workshops will offer hands-on instruction in topics including facade panelization and optimization and collaborative design and analysis. For more information or to register, visit the conference website.

Resilience and the Building Envelope: Facades+ Chicago, July 24–25

Leading facade design specialists will gather in Chicago July 24-25 for the facades+ Chicago conference.

Leading facade design specialists will gather in Chicago July 24-25 for the facades+ Chicago conference.

As the consequences of climate change become more apparent, “resilience” has replaced “sustainability” or “green building” as the goal of environmentally-sensitive design. The concept of resilience is particularly pertinent to the building envelope—the protective barrier between a structure’s occupants and the environment. But what, exactly, does resilience mean in the context of designing and engineering facades? This question is at the heart of the facades+ Chicago conference taking place July 24–25 at the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

More information after the jump.

Facades+ NYC14 Video Interviews: Resilience

Climate change and extreme weather events have made resilience a watchword among AEC professionals. In this video from our partners at Enclos, filmed at facades+ NYC in April, Gordon Gill (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill), Edward Peck (Thornton Tomasetti), and James O’Callaghan (Eckersley O’Callaghan) talk about designing and engineering building skins to meet present and future environmental challenges.

Resilience will take center stage at the facades+ Chicago conference July 24-25. Early Bird registration rates have been extended through Sunday, June 29. For more information and to register, visit the conference website.

REX’s Joshua Prince-Ramus Unwraps His Approach to Facade Design

REX's Media Headquarters Buildings feature retractable sunshades based on a traditional Arab Mashrabiya pattern. (Courtesy REX)

REX’s Media Headquarters Buildings feature retractable sunshades based on a traditional Arab Mashrabiya pattern. (Courtesy REX)

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.]”

Continue reading after the jump.

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