J. Mueller

September 16, 2014

The Franklin Educational Campus Restored, a project team I was very proud to be apart of.

May 10, 2014
April 14, 2014

Went to a great seminar on how to incorporate BIM (Revit) into your company and tips and tricks from professionals. I plan to write-up soon about all I learned at the seminar at University of Buffalo.

March 31, 2014

Air: A Hot Commodity in New York City

All of us are familiar with the practice of buying and selling property in the form of land, residential and commercial space, but the buying and selling of the air surrounding these spaces is a concept well-understood by few. With the recovery of the condominium market in , residential development is at an all-time high, and this means taller and even more luxurious towers are fighting each other tooth and nail for the best possible views of the city. Because of this, the price of air above and around these potential developments is becoming more and more expensive, since a room with a view is worth a whole lot more than one without. Is it possible that these empty, vertical pockets are now worth more than the ground below them?

Read more about New York City’s air rights to find out.

So what exactly are air rights? They can be defined as a building’s “unused or excess development rights” measured by square foot and can be transferred from one building to another if  in that specific area permits. Air rights in NYC typically sell for 50-60% of what the ground below them is worth; some, however, can be worth much more than that, as in the case of air rights along the High Line.

Air was not inalienable to New Yorkers until 1916, when zoning rules and height restrictions were created to try to ensure the development of a healthier city in terms of air and light. Air rights did not become a salable commodity, however, until the 1960′s when density quotas were established for every city block. These restrictions came in the form of a ratio between floor area and lot size (F.A.R.), determining a building’s allowable bulk. This ratio depends on the building’s zone and position on a block or boulevard, where side streets normally carry more restrictions than corner and boulevard lots, especially in height.

Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza is a great example of a building that legally accumulated air rights from at least 7 low-rise properties that had F.A.R. to spare, maxing out the block’s allowable density with a single, looming tower. Thanks to acquiring air rights from two adjacent properties, Kenneth S. Horn’s 18-story Isis Condominium at 303 East 77th Street cantilevers 8 feet above both neighbors starting at the 6th floor, the result of which are “360-degree views, more spacious apartments, abundant light and higher resale value.” A third New York City developer spent more than 15 years and umpteen millions buying unused air rights from smaller properties around his tower just to have enhanced Central Park views.

The multi-million dollar annexation of air space above and around these low-rise properties is causing a major vertical transformation of New York City’s skyline. According to air-rights expert Robert Von Ancken, it is the major reason why these “monster buildings” are cropping up all over the city, drastically changing its horizon. He adds that air-rights trading is on the rise because, quite frankly, it can make the difference between a “marginal and a profitable project.”

So will the future landscape of New York City be filled with a collection of 200-story residential towers with stilted buildings in between? How do those who gave up their air rights feel about these high-rise developments? How will they affect our experience of the surrounding streets and plazas we know and enjoy today? The answers to these questions may not be clear, but one thing can be said for sure: skyscraper-free areas will become rare in the city if the so-called “Great Air Race” continues, and it won’t be too long before New York City has an entirely new personality.

Reference: The New York Times 

Link

March 17, 2014

Blind concept offers breathtaking vision

A student has proposed a novel take on the traditional window blind that can twist and shift in three dimensions. Penumbra is a concept from architecture student Tyler Short using louvers that can tilt both horizontally and vertically to provide shade throughout the day. The louvers act like a vertical venetian blind, and can be tilted 180 degrees as the sun tracks from east to west. What makes Penumbra special, explains Short, is the louvers can rotate upwards to act as “a horizontal shading element and light shelf.”

The horizontal trick allows light to permeate deep into a building while preventing direct sunlight from coming in. To demonstrate the concept, Short created a 3D animation showing a complex system of cogs and gears that could theoretically be used to power the system. Although the concept seems highly unlikely to ever become reality, the visual impact of a mechanical wave of louvers extending out from a building is nonetheless breathtaking.

Source

March 17, 2014

Gensler's proposal for the Hoover Building. Images via Washington Post.

By jumping on the “hacking” bandwagon (about time!), architecture is becoming a culture of creative tinkering. No longer is the idea to design a solution that withstands the test of time—the goal is rather to produce a concept that works well for now, but can change to accommodate future needs.

Architecture firm Gensler recently used the term “hacking” in its radical submission for the renovation of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, a brutalist former FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. Their concept was intentionally a little wacky, including dramatic cuts and heavy symbiotic additions that could accommodate programs such as big-box retail and a rooftop soccer field.

January 30, 2014

"Being an interior designer involves more personal interaction and deep psychological understanding than any field that I have ever explored. Architecture tends to involve more arrogance and less objectivism while interior design can be deeply introspective and personalized to a client’s every need. Don’t get me wrong: I love architecture. I love many architects. However, it’s hard not to be bitter when insanely intelligent and hard-working designers everywhere are being downgraded to decorator status, and much of this title-slinging comes from architects as much as it does clients and peers."

January 12, 2014
“Bausch + Lomb Headquarters
Emerging firms 137Kilo Architects and Beza Projekt create an open-plan office—the likes of which Warsaw has never seen.”

 
The pine-slat reception desk at the new Bausch  Lomb offices in Warsaw, Poland, is encased in an inflated vinyl bubble.

The pine-slat reception desk at the new Bausch + Lomb offices in Warsaw, Poland, is encased in an inflated vinyl bubble.

Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski


Upon entering the Warsaw offices of Bausch + Lomb, visitors are confronted by the sight of a vegetal mosaic composed of ferns, orchids, and broad-leafed tropical flora. It’s hardly the first such green wall—today a commonplace, eco-friendly concept, it was first introduced 20 years ago by the French botanist Patrick Blanc—but no one has seen such a sensitive feature in a Polish office building before. Nor has anyone encountered a receptionist framed in a half-shell made of an inflated vinyl cushion. These are among the many playful devices created by Polish firms 137kilo Architects and Beza Projekt that signal a change in sensibility in a city better known for its toughness.

The fifth-floor atrium of the base building offers a panoramic view of the open-plan office, including the two additional bubbles that are used as conference space.

The fifth-floor atrium of the base building offers a panoramic view of the open-plan office, including the two additional bubbles that are used as conference space.

Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski


Warsaw lost 85 percent of its buildings and 200,000 inhabitants toward the end of World War II, to be followed by four decades of drab settings created by a communist regime. Since democracy took hold in 1989, the city has awakened to consumer capitalism, with its excesses of advertising and glitz—most tellingly, the Communist Party Headquarters was acquired by the stock exchange, then became a Ferrari dealership, and now boasts garish billboards. The Bausch + Lomb office pursues a different tack, emphasizing the quality of one’s experience rather than imagery.

Image

Conference room interior, with view to the open office.

Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski


The company “wanted to supply a new, healthy vision for our office, making it a place of creative interaction,” says Marta Wielondek, country manager of Bausch + Lomb in Poland. “We were certain that the young designers we chose from a limited competition were the only ones who could translate our goals into reality.” The headquarters is one of the first completed projects by 137kilo Architects, whose 33-year-old principal, Jan Sukiennik, collaborated with the designers of Beza Projekt. (The two firms are intimately linked—Sukiennik is married to one of the partners of Beza.) He admits that their team would never have been able to work so creatively without the encouragement of Wielondek, who, for example, requested to install a swing and a park bench in her office to put people at ease.

  • In the open-plan office, desks are set up in a cruciform pattern, with a ficus tree planted at the center.

    Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski

    In the open-plan office, desks are set up in a cruciform pattern, with a ficus tree planted at the center.

Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski

In the open-plan office, desks are set up in a cruciform pattern, with a ficus tree planted at the center.
  • Even the closed spaces in the offices promote transparency: The conference room, which is one of the few enclosed spaces in the floor plan, features glass walls that can be closed off by opaque curtains. The kitchen, a central gathering space in the offices, sits just beyond.

    Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski

    The conference room, which is one of the few enclosed spaces in the floor plan, features glass walls that can be closed off by opaque curtains.

Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski

The conference room, which is one of the few enclosed spaces in the floor plan, features glass walls that can be closed off by opaque curtains.

Starting with the brief for an open-plan scheme, the architect eliminated all of the non-load-bearing walls on the top floor of a prime office building designed by Marek Swierczynski in the mid-1990s, tearing out the hung ceiling to expose snarls of HVAC and wiring, which were then spray-painted white. They conceived the workspaces as clusters of four desks set in a cruciform pattern (which also happens to trace the company’s logo), placing a ficus tree at each crux. Transparent glass partitions enclose the conference room and the offices of Wielondek and her assistant, and thus the entire team, except the accountant, remain in full view. Sukiennik and his team devised a series of nomadic solutions for the material and social needs of the office, including two oval bubbles that can be used as consultation rooms or retreat areas. Reminiscent of the inflatables from 1970s counterculture (think Haus-Rucker-Co or Ant Farm), each semitransparent shell, made from two layers of vinyl with a 20-centimeter air pocket in between, is pitched like a tent over steel hoops. The lenslike quality of the forms, which intimates the company’s principal product of contact lenses, comes from the regularly placed disks which are used to anchor internal white cords that bind the outside layer of vinyl to the inside layer, similar to the structure of a mattress. The inflatables were first thought of for their ease of assembly, and in addition offer the potential to be easily moved.

Custom-made crates affixed to the wall are used as shelves in the office library.

Custom-made crates affixed to the wall are used as shelves in the office library.

Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski


Other features include custom-made crates, inspired by those used for storing apples, and vertical space dividers that resemble the wooden pallets used for transporting goods in warehouses. The designers tipped the crates on their sides and attached them in staggered patterns to one of the walls to serve as shelving for the office’s library. The vertical flats, which are constructed from blanched pine stakes, can be used for hanging coats, or they can be rolled into place to serve as a privacy partition.

  • The two conference pods in the space are made out of inflated vinyl, and are designed for flexible use as break-out space for the Bausch  Lomb employees.

    Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski

    The two conference pods in the space are made out of inflated vinyl, and are designed for flexible use as break-out space for the Bausch + Lomb employees.

Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski

The two conference pods in the space are made out of inflated vinyl, and are designed for flexible use as break-out space for the Bausch + Lomb employees.
Currently the open-plan office is enjoying a revival due to the Google generation who seeks ever-more flexible workspaces (see the Google offices in Tel Aviv and London). The earlier versions of this phenomenon, perhaps first seen in Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1904 Larkin Building in Buffalo, N.Y., had clear panoptic intentions for surveying workers; more recent versions appeal to office democracy and coworking. And despite the openness, the Bausch + Lomb offices still provide the employees with places to remove or even shelter themselves. One such space, known as ‘the fun room,’ has a foosball table and a round couch surrounded by a tall upholstered parapet where office workers can discretely take (sanctioned) catnaps. Another flexible space is the kitchen—not a tiny counter for making coffee, but a full kitchen with lots of storage and a large dining table with 12 wooden chairs. “We like the creative feeling that comes from the kitchen,” Wielondek explains, “and it really brings us all together in casual ways.”

A green walllined exam room allows the staff to perform ophthalmological tests within the confines of their new office space.

A green wall–lined exam room allows the staff to perform ophthalmological tests within the confines of their new office space.

Credit: Jacek Kolodziejski

The entire office has superb daylighting and spectacular views to the nearby St. Alexander’s Church and, in the distance, the immense Palace of Culture and Science, Stalin’s skyscraper “gift” to Poland, which was completed in 1955. Surrounding it is the chaotic addition of new high-rise structures in glass wrappings, each competing with the next for image recognition. The cockeyed Zlota 44 tower, designed by Daniel Libeskind, AIA, is a vindication of his heritage, and offers a prime example of style over comfort. But Sukiennik’s wife, Zofia Strumillo-Sukiennik, summed up the difference in their design approach: “Our generation is the first in a long time to be free, but we often don’t know what real freedom is, and remain content with the so-called pleasures of consumer culture,” she says. “In our projects, we are seeking something that goes beyond imagery, that offers a quality that will enable people to make their own freedom.”

Source

January 12, 2014
“2013 AIA HONOR AWARDS
Coal Harbour District
Vancouver, B.C. / LMN Architects, Seattle; Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership, Vancouver; DA Architects + Planners, Vancouver”

Once an industrial area marked by shipyards and lumber mills, the Coal Harbour convention district on Vancouver’s downtown peninsula has been the focus of redevelopment efforts since the 1980s. The new district has finally succeeded in revitalizing the area by knitting the convention center into a larger strategic plan. The building defines new public open space and extends the city’s pedestrian activity to the waterfront, while a public promenade and bike trail link to the city’s park system. A major civic plaza and a 6-acre living roof (the largest in Canada) create a balance between the urban and the natural.

Jury: “The project transforms the convention center typology into a true ‘civic’ piece of the city. The balance of built and open space is spectacular, and the linear orientation of the park and convention center take full advantage of the water’s edge.”

Client: “Our LEED Platinum–certified facility successfully engages, preserves, and integrates with the surrounding natural ecology of the waterfront, park spaces, and urban setting.” —Craig Lehto, assistant general manager, Vancouver Convention Centre

Source

January 12, 2014
“2013 AIA HONOR AWARDS
Charles Smith Wines
Walla Walla, Wash. / Olson Kundig Architects, Seattle”

Rock-n-roll-band-manager-turned-winemaker Charles Smith asked Olson Kundig to turn the 1917 Johnson Auto Electric building into a wine-tasting room and office while retaining the raw spirit of the industrial structure. Leaving the existing brick walls, wood trusses, and concrete floor intact, the architects designed a flexible program, inserting a prefabricated unit into the building. Dubbed the Armadillo, it can transform from an office, tasting room, and retail store into a dining and entertainment venue. Two custom, hand-cranked pivot doors replaced the original garage doors, and double as an awning for outdoor seating.

Jury: “A great solution for a simple space reflecting an attitude of restraint and editing. The project is gritty and urban, and integrates the exterior with the interior for a sort of ‘rough luxe’ aesthetic.”

Client: “It’s rare that you find a partner like Tom Kundig, who not only understands the intent of a project but nearly anticipates it. We were in complete agreement from the onset, specifically about how wine is not about a tasting room or office, but about the vineyards and the winemaking process. The building expresses this fact and brings you to the true heart of what we do.” —Charles Smith

Source 

January 12, 2014
“Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Morphosis Architects”

Dallas

Sheared and Shirred/Surfaces and Solids: Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis, turn a corner for the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.

By Suzanne Stephens


“Forceful,” “acrobatic,” “muscular,” “raw,” even “gritty” are usually the operative adjectives to describe the architecture of Thom Mayne (2013 AIA Gold Medalist) and his firm, Morphosis. But not “refined.” Yet the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which opened in Dallas last month, seems surprisingly restrained for a building by the Los Angeles firm. With its pale, crinkly precast-concrete panels enclosing a cubic volume, it appears rather sedate from afar. At the same time, there is a raw energy in the way the calm cube erupts from a craggy free-form plinth covered with shards of rock and local plants.

While the cube and plinth provide the dominant volumetric elements, the skin brings the exterior into high relief. Riddled by wrinkles, creases, and puckers, the precast-concrete cladding would look like an elephant’s hide if it were not so light in color. Instead, the slightly mottled off-white surface has a ruched texture like a luxuriantly pliable fabric. The heavy cloak of 656 precast panels, typically 8 by 30 feet (and some weighing 16,000 pounds and up to 9½ inches thick), gives the striated skin arresting shadow lines, a coup de théâtre made possible by the architects, the engineers, and a concrete subcontractor using building-information modeling (BIM).

The Perot cube did not come all that naturally to Mayne. His first scheme, an angular, hunkering form, extended over much of the 4.7-acre site, and its galleries adopted the splayed shapes of the container itself. But the client, Mayne found, “felt more of a comfort level with neutral stacked exhibition spaces and not too much light.” And terms such as “orthogonal” and “opaque” seemed key to understanding the museum’s vision.

Mayne’s response was a 170-foot-high building containing four floors inside an almost blank cube devoted primarily to windowless galleries. Three design firms (Amaze Design, Paul Bernhard Exhibit Design, and Science Museum of Minnesota) took over installations for the 11 permanent exhibition halls, focusing on fossils, birds, geology, space exploration, and other topics.

Children’s classrooms and exhibition areas occupy the plinth’s lower level, which visitors can enter from the east, where the architect’s geological formation seems pushed up by a glacial flow of curtain wall. The glassed-in main lobby, a void separating the cube and plinth, is reached by visitors ascending a curved ramp from the parking area to the west.

In order to bring daylight into the museum, Mayne cracked open the southeast corner of the cube to create a glass-and-steel atrium containing escalators and staircases. He made the museum’s major circulation device—the escalator—a salient feature of the exterior by enclosing a 54-foot-long section of it in a glass cartridge smacked onto the south facade. The exposed escalator is the final move in a sequence that begins at the lobby level; where it pushes out, the cartridge is cantilevered from a beam that in turn is cantilevered from another beam. These acrobatics control deflections and vibrations, notes structural engineer Kurt Clandening of John A. Martin & Associates, which worked with Datum Engineers on the project.

Daylight floods the cube’s atrium and dramatizes the sculptural pyrotechnics: Here a precast-concrete curvilinear vertical assemblage, suspended from the roof, alternately narrows and widens into a tornado-like whorl to embrace staircases and escalators. Nearby a poured-in-place-concrete shaft contains glass elevators for those who succumb to vertigo in glancing over perforated powder-coated aluminum balustrades or by peering down 99 feet through the metal grate floor of the fourth-floor bridge.

The escalators only go up. Visitors are encouraged to start at the top, where an 85-foot-long dinosaur’s skeleton (a reconstructed Alamosaurus incorporating actual vertebra fossils) charges through a 36-foot-high space on the fourth floor; large concrete Vierendeel trusses on the floor above allow the dinosaur to have sufficient headroom.

Lower down, where the cube seems to hover above the lobby level on the plinth, large V-shaped concrete columns supplement a grid of round concrete ones, and transfer girders adjust loads at the perimeter. In this light-filled space, a limpidly curving glazed wall relies on a tension-cable-supported system to stabilize its organic flow. The lobby’s mesh ceiling partially conceals the concrete deck above and carries slender rods of LEDs. In addition, polygonal fiberglass pods—similar to those resting on the exterior landscape of the plinth’s roof—nestle against the ceiling, emitting light through small perforations.

Mayne wanted the building to function as its own scientific exhibition as well as a provocative work of architecture.Accordingly, the museum design includes various sustainable features: Rainwater rolls down the slanted roof into two cisterns (with minimal drainpipes), which recycle up to 50,000 gallons for irrigation and flushing. Three solar collectors on the plinth roof help heat water, and most of the concrete in the project uses fly ash, slag, and other supplementary cementitious materials to reduce the carbon footprint. Since the precast panels cover most of the cube, the heat load is cut down as well—all of which will keep operating costs down for the $185 million museum.

Mayne won the commission over architects Ennead, Shigeru Ban, and Snøhetta, though he had not designed a museum before. It was a first new building for the client as well. The museum’s contents came from three different collections exhibited at Fair Park in Dallas, built for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. Nicole Small, the CEO of the Perot, says Mayne “understood the building could be a teaching tool. The way he thinks about sustainability and materials is creative and rigorous.”

With its Cartesian cube and its free-flowing, lavalike plinth, the Perot museum is one of Morphosis’s most remarkable works to date. Like James Stirling’s architecturally synoptic Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart (1984)—“my model,” Mayne notes—the Perot combines traditional roomlike galleries with unconventional halls. It also mixes Euclidean geometry with hyperbolic curves, and juxtaposes fluid and restrained spaces. The striking design evokes the naturally sheared cube of black pyrite from Spain on view in the museum’s Lyda Hill Gems and Mineral Hall. The connection between natural and man-made artifact speaks of a flinty integrity that makes architecture meaningful.

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