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

Page Floats a Cedar Sunshade in Albuquerque

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Page designed a simple cedar and steel-wire screen to shade the courtyard of the new GSA building in New Mexico. (Patrick Coulie)

Page designed a simple cedar and steel-wire screen to shade the courtyard of the new GSA building in New Mexico. (Patrick Coulie)

Minimalist catenary canopy lends warmth and lightness to office courtyard.

When Page design principal Larry Speck suggested a catenary sunshade for the courtyard of the new GSA building in Albuquerque, his colleagues set about identifying precedents. “There were some really great devices that we looked at, but a lot were done in the 1960s out of heavy, monumental materials,” said principal Talmadge Smith. “We wondered if there was a way to do it in a lighter, more delicate way that would also introduce some warmth to the space.” The architects elected to build the structure out of western red cedar, which performs particularly well in arid climates. Comprising 4-, 8-, and 12-foot boards suspended on steel cables, the sunshade appears as a wave of blonde wood floating in mid-air, casting slatted shadows on the glass walls of the courtyard.
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Mikou Design Studio’s Design for Congo’s Africannews headquarter

The Africannews center will be a prominent addition to the Brazzaville skyline. (Courtesy Mikou Studio)

The Africannews center will be a prominent addition to the Brazzaville skyline. (Courtesy Mikou Studio)

Mikou Design Studio has unveiled the design for the Africanews headquarters in Brazzaville, Congo. Mikou proposed a large expressive tower on stilts during a competition for the site. The tower mass floats on massive pillars over a two-story podium with an interstitial patio between the pieces, topping out at 174 feet over the city.

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Senior Housing in Oakland Pushes the Building Envelope

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Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects pursued both LEED and GreenPoints ratings for their Merritt Crossing senior housing complex. (Tim Griffith)

Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects pursued both LEED and GreenPoint ratings for their Merritt Crossing senior housing complex. (Tim Griffith)

Sustainability and high design meet in Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ affordable housing complex.

Designing a sustainable building on a budget is tricky enough. But for the Merritt Crossing senior housing complex in Oakland, California, non-profit developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates upped the ante, asking Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects to follow not one but two green-building ratings systems. “They wanted to push the envelope of what they typically do and decided to pursue not only the LEED rating, but also the GreenPoint system,” said principal Richard Stacy. “So we actually did both, which is kind of crazy.” Wrapped in a colorful cement-composite rain screen system punctuated by high performance windows, Merritt Crossing achieved LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Pilot Program Platinum and earned 206 points on the Build-It-Green GreenPoint scale. The building was also the first Energy Star Rated multi-family residence in California, and was awarded 104 points by Bay-Friendly Landscaping. Read More

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.]”

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Sonoran Desert Vernacular by CO Architects

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CO Architects studied the Sonoran Desert to create a new urban vernacular for Phoenix. (Bill Timmerman)

CO Architects studied the Sonoran Desert to create a new urban vernacular for Phoenix. (Bill Timmerman)

Red-rock mountains and the saguaro cactus inspired the Health Sciences Education Building’s rippling copper facade.

Downtown Phoenix, observed CO Architects’ Arnold Swanborn, looks a lot like downtown Minneapolis. That feels wrong, given the two cities’ contrasting environments. So when it came to designing the Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB) at Phoenix Biomedical Campus (which won honorable mention for facades in AN’s Best of Design Awards), CO Architects went back to nature—to the Sonoran Desert in particular. “We’re building in a desert. We really, in the outset, wanted to understand what it’s like to build in a desert environment, to really go back and investigate the people who first moved there, or even some of the [American] Indians who lived [there],” said Swanborn. “The skin is really a response to some of the lessons we learned from going out to the desert, being out there and seeing how plants and animals adapted to that environment.” Read More

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